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The Vermont Community Foundation Announces Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Focused COVID-19 Recovery Initiative

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Today, the Vermont Community Foundation announced $150,000 in grants to expand Vermonters’ access to mental health and suicide prevention care as part of the newest recovery initiative from its VT COVID-19 Response Fund. Since it was created in March 2020, the VT COVID-19 Response Fund has distributed more than $10 million in grants to assist with basic and urgent needs for Vermont’s most vulnerable, and jumpstarting longer term recovery and resilience through the initial five recovery initiatives announced in September 2020.

“The approaching holiday season should be a time of joy and reunion, yet too many Vermonters—particularly our youngest neighbors—are struggling with the stress, anxiety, and isolation stemming from the last twenty months of pandemic,” says Dan Smith, president and CEO of the Vermont Community Foundation. “We designed the COVID-19 recovery initiatives to support solutions to major challenges that must be addressed for Vermont to improve its resilience in the face of future disruption. As we continue to hear stories of Vermonters in crisis, we moved quickly to include support for mental health and suicide prevention as a sixth recovery initiative.”

Grant recipients for this round are community-based organizations that are using evidence-based, culturally competent mental health and suicide prevention supports and services to serve populations put most at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data has shown that demand for services has skyrocketed over the last twenty months. For example, visits to hospital emergency departments for mental health-related issues among youth were 66 percent higher in May 2020 than the same month of the previous year. This competitive grant round was designed to enhance community capacity to address risk factors and facilitate access to care, adopt best practices in primary and mental health care facilities, and to provide multi-lingual and multi-modal communications to reduce stigma in Vermont.

“The situations in Vermont’s communities, health care facilities, and designated mental health support systems are dire,” says Sarah Waring, vice president for grants and community investments. “We are fortunate to have partners that support our work on mental health and suicide prevention at this time, because COVID-19 has shown many of the underlying challenges and the gaps in workforce, system support, facility space, and training, which must be addressed to meet this new demand.”

The full list of grantees for the initial round of mental health and suicide prevention focused grants from the VT COVID-19 Response Fund is below. Moving forward, the Community Foundation will be continuing to work with donors and partners to explore other strategies for getting resources to organizations supporting mental health and suicide prevention. To learn more, including how you can support this work, please contact Jane Kimble at jkimble@vermontcf.org or 802-388-3355 ext. 286.

Boys & Girls Club of Brattleboro received $10,000 to expand its PRISM program’s LGTBQ+ support group that meets weekly to help foster a shared understanding of gender and sexuality in a safe space with peers and allies.

Center for Health and Learning received $10,000 to support its Umatter Postvention Project, a collaboration with the Howard Center to provide suicide postvention programming to area businesses that interact with populations most impacted by suicide risk.

North Central Vermont Recovery Center received $10,000 to provide peer recovery coaching by trained, qualified recovery coaches to all who need and request it, without any waiting list.

Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital received $10,000 to expand the efforts of the Pediatrics Department to support adolescents and families through enhanced services such as therapy and support groups for adolescents and parents, Mental Health First Aid classes for adults and teens, and resources to help families access treatment.

Out in the Open (FKA Green Mountain Crossroads) received $10,000 to support expansion of its evidence-based peer support Trans Femme Chill Club for rural trans women and femmes.

Outright Vermont received $10,000 to support a 2-to-3-year pilot project in Rutland that will allow Outright to identify and recruit allies, recruit and manage volunteers, build relationships with local partner organizations and schools, and establish permanent programs such as Friday Night Group and Transparent for LGBTQ+ youth.

Pride Center of Vermont received $10,000 to implement a short-term counseling program to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and HIV-affected (LGBTQ+) Vermonters experiencing physical, emotional, sexual, and systemic harm.

Rutland Mental Health, Community Care Network received $10,000 to expand youth access to services by including a service to text with a local clinician, available 24/7.

South Royalton School-Based Health Clinic (DBA HealthHUB) received $10,000 to hire a part-time mental health outpatient therapist in an effort to eliminate the school clinic’s waiting list for mental health services.

Spectrum Youth & Family Services received $10,000 to implement an agency wide effort to adopt comprehensive suicide prevention planning based on the national and state-based Zero Suicide campaign.

The Special Needs Support Center of the Upper Valley (SNSC) received $10,000 to implement Art Lab for Teens, an expanded collaboration with AVA Gallery and the Regional Resource Center. This afterschool program will support students with disabilities and their families who are experiencing isolation.

Turning Point Addison County received $10,000 to expand mental and behavioral health supports by providing 24/7 access to a live Recovery Coach with a new initiative called “Rapid Access Recovery Coaches.” The goal is to decrease fatal/non-fatal overdoses and suicide by providing instant access to a video conferencing tool that can meet the immediate needs of those in recovery or people seeking treatment.

Vermont Association for Mental Health and Addiction Recovery received $10,000 to support the development of a pilot program in suicide peer support services in which those with lived experience with suicidality can support their peers with evidence-based peer support practices.

Vermont Cooperative for Practice Improvement & Innovation received $10,000 to support a “Umatter Gatekeeper” Training of Trainers for student and staff leaders at Northern Vermont University (NVU) and the Community College of Vermont (CCV) in partnership with the Center for Health and Learning. The program will help address a critical gap in mental health services for students with an emphasis on BIPOC, LGBQT+, and veteran communities.

Youth Services received $10,000 to support Friends For Change (FFC), a democratically run, youth-led/adult guided, trauma-transformative, and play-based approach to help youth reframe their responses to traumas as strengths.