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Community Health addresses ‘mental health crisis’ with new staff, programs

Community Health Partners With Come Alive Outside Passport to Recovery, Zero Suicide Initiatives

Rutland – “We are in the midst of a mental health crisis,” said Community Health Behavioral Health Director Christopher Chadwick. “Not only are we dealing with mental health issues, but we are also seeing an increase in overdose deaths across the state,” Chadwick said.

Community Health is partnering with several state and local agencies to raise the importance of recognizing symptoms of potential suicide and to provide the community with the skilled professionals and resources to address behavioral health illnesses like depression, anxiety and addiction recovery.

Recent data indicates that Vermont is on pace to set record high cases of drug overdose deaths, Chadwick said. “Isolation, fear, the pandemic and the increase in stress – we are seeing a lot of that play out as an increase in self harm and death by suicide,” he added. As of October 2020, there were 93 suicide deaths among Vermont residents, 11 of them in Rutland County, a number that has remained steady for the past three years.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “from June 2019 thru May of 2020, there were an estimated 81,230 deaths from drug overdoses in the United States, an increase of 18% from the 68,829 deaths that occurred the year before. Drug overdose deaths were up in all but four states – New Hampshire, Idaho, Nevada, and Utah.”

Katie James, RN-BC, is coordinating Community Health’s involvement in Come Alive Outside’s Passport to Recovery project which helps those in recovery from addiction or anyone who is suffering from anxiety or depression. The program will offer more than 40 activities over a 10-week period.

“Everybody who signs up and completes a pre-survey gets a passport booklet and a hydro flask for participating in the program,” James said. “After five activities are completed, they would take the post-survey and then they are eligible for a gift card from places like Amazon or the Vermont Country Store.”

The variety of outdoor and indoor activities planned in the Passport series include nature connection exercises like hiking on Vermont trails or making sugar on snow. Yoga and cooking instruction will also be available through a virtual community connection.

“Over 40 nature related activities were created to relieve stress and anxiety while also encouraging adults to have fun outdoors this winter season,” James said.

The program begins January 15th and ends March 31st. Sign up can be done online at or at Community Health’s Allen Pond offices.

Vermont’s Zero Suicide project provides webinars and information sessions that present evidence based principles and practices for suicide prevention awareness for health care providers and for building resources in the community. Through the Zero Suicide project, Community Health is offering training for the health care staff so providers can swiftly identify those who are in need of support and care.

Over a six month period in 2020, Community Health’s behavioral health team supported an active case load of 2630 patient visits which includes 452 patients in the medication assisted treatment (MAT) program. In response to the increased demand for behavior health treatment, Community Health continues to expand while addressing the mental health needs identified in Rutland County’s community health assessment. These achievements in 2020 include:

Full-time behavioral health staff at every Community Health practice, including pediatrics
Increased rapid access model implemented for addiction patients and MAT services
Additional staff hired including geriatric and pediatric social workers, psychiatric care managers and MAT care managers.

Telehealth consultations available to all patients.

For Community Health’s behavior health patients, Telehealth continues to be a safe, useful and patient-requested format. “Our average no-show rate has been around 20% or less. In September we were at 12%. The patient no-show rate in mid-November at 13%,” Chadwick said. As a result of the availability of the Telehealth opportunities, Community Health providers are able to remain in touch with behavioral health patients complying with social distancing policies of the pandemic as well as addressing general transportation and access obstacles.

As part of Community Health’s nursing home service line, a social worker and a psychiatric nurse practitioner work within the nursing home population. They collaborate with providers and the care coordination team Community Health supports in three nursing homes in the Rutland area. Previously, the nursing homes had partnered with a program that provided consultation by video. Community Health’s plan to bring face-to-face consultations to nursing home patients will be “more collaborative and engaging” for patients, Chadwick said.

Looking ahead to 2021, Chadwick said plans are underway to continue to innovate, improve and grow behavioral health services to all Community Health practices including a proposed expansion of the Allen Pond offices to provide more consultation space in Rutland.

All Community Health locations are open and accepting patients. For more information about Community Health and updates on COVID and the vaccination, check our website (

Community Health is Vermont’s largest FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center), a network of primary care, pediatric, behavioral health, dental and pharmacy services with offices in Rutland, Brandon, Castleton, West Pawlet and Shoreham. Community Dental offices are located in Rutland and Shoreham, Community Health Pediatrics is in Rutland and Behavioral Health services are available at all of our locations. Community Health Express Care centers, open 7 days-a-week, are located at the Rutland and Castleton Community Health Centers.

The mission of Community Health (Community Health Centers of the Rutland Region) is to improve the health and wellness of all people in the communities we serve by providing access to excellent medical and dental primary care regardless of any financial consideration.

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