newportFILM aims to start a community dialogue on mental health and substance abuse with documentary film screening

NEWPORT – November 15, 2019 — Over 300 first responders, mental health professionals, students, and members of the Newport community gathered at Salve Regina’s Bazarsky Lecture Hall for newportFILM’s free film screenings of Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops on Tuesday, November 12th.

Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops is an intimate portrait of two Texas police officers who are helping change the way police respond to mental health calls. The film takes audiences on a personal journey, weaving together their experiences during their daily encounters with people in crisis. Guns tucked away, Ernie and Joe de-escalate confrontations, divert people to desperately needed mental health services, and save lives.

This public event came together after newportFILM was awarded the Newport County Prevention Coalition State Opioid Response (SOR) Grant early this year to engage the community in a dialogue regarding substance abuse. Partnering with both the Newport County Prevention Coalition and the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities & Hospitals (BHDDH), the film events were followed by panel discussions with film subjects Ernie Stevens and Joe Smarro,  director Jenifer McShane (via Skype), Newport Fire Department Captain Jared Minick, Retired Middletown Police Chief Anthony Pesare and moderated by Jamie Lehane, Executive Director of Newport Mental Health.

“newportFILM’s screening of Ernie & Joe is truly what is needed in today’s society. The documentary gives viewers that strong dose of realism from the opening scene…” said Gregory Thompson, Newport County Prevention Coalition’s SOR Grant Coordinator.

Corey Silvia, Portsmouth Prevention Coalition Coordinator described the event saying “this screening truly opened up a much needed conversation around Policing Strategies and mental health… the forum allowed cadets to ask questions about their individual experiences, grounding the reason for the added mental health and communication trainings into reality for the up-and-coming officers.”

newportFILM is honored to be 1 of 7 grantees receiving the S.O.R. Grant from Newport County Prevention Coalition to further efforts in promoting the health and safety of our residents through film, education, partnerships and community collaboration. Other grantees include Child & Family, Parenting Support Network, Boys Town of New England, and Visiting Nurses Home and Hospice.

newportFILM’s Executive Director, Becca Bertrand said “We are incredibly grateful to the Newport County Prevention Coalition for this opportunity and have enjoyed working with the fellow grantees to shine a light on substance abuse and factors leading to abuse”

newportFILM is a year-round non-profit screening program devoted to showcasing films that inspire, educate and entertain, presenting current and impactful documentaries that build community and propel change. For more information, visit