Robin Ramos has a special relationship with the Rhode Island Parent Information Network. She is the mother of children with special needs, and RIPIN helped her through a stressful period to navigate the insurance industry. She turned to RIPIN again after being diagnosed with ALS almost two years ago.
“It was a shocking diagnosis for myself and for my family. I had been the financial provider for my family and all of a sudden, I was deemed disabled. This of course was a very tough and stressful time for me,” she said Monday.
It’s no wonder Ramos, who lives in Warwick, was selected as the keynote speaker for a celebration of RIPIN’s new offices at 300 Jefferson Boulevard. She knows the power of the agency, which was formed about 30 years ago by a group of parents who sought answers on how to deal with issues they faced.
RIPIN incorporated in 1991. Around the same time, RIPIN was designated the official Parent Training Information Center (PTIC) for special education by the U.S. Department of Education. Since then, RIPIN – with an operating budget of $4.6 million – has expanded to serve all Rhode Islanders with a variety of programs. The agency supports Early Intervention services for very young (age 0-5) children with special needs and connects adults with free and low-cost health and wellness classes in their communities.
RIPIN is also the official consumer assistance help center for health insurance for the state of Rhode Island. Any Rhode Islander, no matter what type of health care coverage they have, can call the center at 401-270-0101 for help understanding and navigating their health insurance. The consumer assistance call center helped Rhode Islanders save or recover $2.25 million in health care costs in 2018, according to the RIPIN annual report.
According to a RIPIN spokesman, “Although RIPIN has grown, the ‘peer support’ model remains at the heart of everything we do: over 3/4 of our staff and the majority of our board are parents or caretakers of a loved one with special health or education needs.”
RIPIN moved into its new offices from Cranston in September but waited until Tuesday for the ribbon cutting and remarks from elected officials so that they might settle in first, explained RIPIN Executive Director Samuel Salganik. He said RIPIN employs 100 people, with 70 working on site from the new offices.
And why Warwick?
“This is where it’s happening,” Salganik answered with a laugh. He notes the agency has come a long way from the warehouse where it started and continues to grow today.
“It shows we’re doing something good,” he said.
That sentiment was echoed by U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Rep. David Cicilline and Mayor Joseph Solomon.
“We’re going to do our part to keep the family together,” Reed said, pointing to the role RIPIN and parents play in shaping policy and advocating for legislation.
Whitehouse spoke of the role the agency plays in assisting people to access the support they need.
Solomon called RIPIN “a guiding light for people who need it.”
That was the case for Ramos.
Reflecting on the assistance she gained as a mother, she spoke of Amanda Goodinson, whose “wonderful knowledge … helped me will all of my children’s needs.” Years later came her own diagnosis. She turned to RIPIN.
“I again reached out to RIPIN to seek help with my own insurance needs, and in the past, I knew help was on the way. Looking for supplemental insurance, looking for advice where to turn, assistance for the children, wondering what to do. Amanda, my go-to specialist, helped me with such knowledge that steered me in the right direction. She treated me like a family member, with such concern and compassion,” she said.
Ramos also spoke of the agency’s commitment to helping
“It’s not a situation where they are not going to call you back, it’s not a situation where they’re not going to have an answer, it’s not a situation where they’re just going to put you at the bottom of the list. They are going to act, you are going to get the call, and the results are going to be seen,” she said.