A longtime local advocate for kids’ mental health care gets a national stage.
A large tarpon can measure up to 8 feet long and weigh well over 200 pounds. Called the silver king for the shimmering scales that plate its sides, it’s legendary among sportfishermen for its stamina and fighting spirit. Once hooked, those hundreds of pounds of muscle launch into the air, throwing the hook again and again. But the battle’s only begun when the hook finally sets; even a veteran angler can take hours to reel it in, with patience and strategy, applying the right amounts of pressure and slack until he wears down his formidable opponent and pulls it on board.
It may be that Gregory Fritz, MD ’67, a “fanatic fisherman” by his own description, is uniquely qualified to tackle some of health care’s most entrenched problems. The director of child psychiatry at Hasbro Children’s Hospital and at Alpert Medical School, he has been fighting for mental health parity—equal coverage for mental and physical health conditions—for much of his four-decade career.
His most recent catch took Fritz eight years to reel in. In March, a provision went into effect that requires federal funding for pediatric residency programs to include children’s psychiatric hospitals such as Bradley Hospital in East Providence, where he is academic director. Closing that loophole involved maneuvers that made Fritz “very unpopular” nationally, says Bradley’s medical director, Henry Sachs III MD’88 RES’92 F’93.
“He took the heat,” Sachs says. “I have no doubt this would not have happened without Greg’s persistence. …
“But that encapsulates Greg. When he believes in something, he advocates incredibly effectively for it,” Sachs adds. “If you don’t have patience, you’ll get frustrated and give up. Greg will see the long-term view of things and follow them out.”