January 22, 2024
Northeast Kingdom Human Services Finds a Home for its 24/7 Mental Health Treatment Facility and Programming
[Newport, VT: January 22, 2024] Northeast Kingdom Human Services (NKHS) purchased a property on Lakemont Road, Newport, which will be the home of the agency's Mental Health Urgent Care Program, The Front Porch. The Lakemont property will house specialized programming specifically for individuals in the Northeast Kingdom experiencing suicidal ideation or mental health distress, diverting individuals from emergency departments by providing a community-based alternative.
The desire to create a 24/7 mental health facility started years ago through advocacy work from Betty and Chris Barrett of Newport City, VT. Betty, a suicide attempt survivor and a mother who lost a son to suicide, deeply understood the difference a therapeutic environment with professional supports could make for someone in mental distress. Chris and Betty's grassroots efforts to call attention to the need for an alternative to emergency department mental health care resonated with Kelsey Stavseth, NKHS Executive Director. Together, NKHS and the Barrett's launched an advocacy campaign hosting community meetings, gathering support from NEK community members, healthcare facilities, law enforcement agencies, and other community healthcare partners. The broad support for this program reached the Governor's office through letters, postcards, and advocacy from local legislators, law enforcement, and medical professionals. In 2023, funding for this program was included in Governor Scott's budget, and NKHS began the search for a property.
The goal of this program is to reduce the number of emergency department visits for people with mental health as their primary concern by providing a welcoming, less restrictive, voluntary, and safe, community-based environment and environment for assessing individuals who are struggling. Law enforcement is frequently called upon to assist those experiencing mental health challenges, and they have limited options on where to bring individuals. Those in a mental health crisis seeking help through 911, 988, or hospitals now have a purpose-built alternative. The treatment facility would also be open for 'walk-in' support and would be a priority drop-off support location for first responders supporting individuals in acute mental health crises.
Efforts will soon begin to renovate the property to create a welcoming, therapeutic space, hire staff, and develop comprehensive programming to meet the needs of our community members seeking support. Kelsey Stavseth, NKHS Executive Director, is optimistic about an early summer 2024 opening.
"I am excited that many years of advocacy and work are finally coming together. The Front Porch was created with community members at the forefront of our thinking. It allows us to support people in a therapeutic, safe, and calming environment and alleviates stressors on other service providers like law enforcement and hospitals. We at NKHS are proud to bring this support to the people of the NEK, especially because of the collaborative nature of this project. We couldn't have done this without our advocates and partners", says Kelsey Stavseth, NKHS Executive Director.
The Barrett's believe in the power of community and feel hopeful the goal of better mental health care for the NEK is closer to fruition. As Betty's personal motto states, "Hope is your lifeline".
July 18, 2023
Northeast Kingdom Human Services Celebrates the 1st Anniversary of the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and Looks Toward the Future of the Program and What it Means for Vermont
[St. Johnsbury, VT: July 18, 2023] On July 18th, Northeast Kingdom Human Services (NKHS), 1 of 10 Designated Agency’s in the State, held an event celebrating the 1st anniversary of 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline and shared the newly-renovated space that will house this program. These three numbers -- 988 -- became available nationwide in July 2022 to everyone in the U.S. to call, text or chat to access a national network of local and state-funded crisis centers.
NKHS is part of a national network that provides free and confidential mental health support to Vermonters in suicidal crises or mental health distress. In a year, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline has helped 3,392 Vermonters through various mental health situations where 57 required active rescue. The NKHS 988 staff have been able to get to a caller on average in 12.8 seconds, knowing that a quick response can save a life.
The event welcomed Emily Hawes, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Mental Health, who spoke about the importance of partnerships, the program's positive impact on Vermonters, and the work the program is doing to help dismantle the stigma surrounding mental health. Also joining the event were: Christopher Allen, Director of Suicide Prevention; the Vermont Department of Mental Health; the NKHS 988 Lifeline staff; and employees of Northwest Counseling and Support Services, with whom NKHS shares 988 coverage.
"By delivering accessible, immediate and confidential support, the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline allows folks in crisis the space to be vulnerable and truthful about their experiences while directing them to the appropriate level of care," shares Commissioner Hawes.
NKHS held the event at the Cornerstone Lane property, where Josh Burke, Director of Emergency Services, gave a tour of the renovated building. He shared the mindful planning that went into creating a space where employees would feel comfortable and supported, including an area that allows for transition into and out of the challenging work.
November 17, 2022
NKHS Receives CCBHC’s $4 Million Planning, Development and Implementation Grant
[St. Johnsbury, VT: November 17, 2022] Northeast Kingdom Human Services (NKHS) announces its award of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) Planning, Development, and Implementation (PDI) grant.
NKHS is honored to be one of four designated agencies in the State to receive this federal grant. The funds, distributed as $1 million annually for four years, will prepare NKHS to provide enhanced services with the potential to become a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic.
CCBHCs are meant to provide a comprehensive range of mental health and substance use services for anyone in our community. CCBHCs provided integrated care with the hope of:
Ensuring access to integrated, evidence-based substance use disorder and mental health services, including 24/7 crisis response and medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
Meeting stringent criteria regarding the timeliness of access, quality reporting, staffing and coordination with social services, criminal justice and education systems.
Receiving flexible funding to support the costs of expanding services to meet the need for care in their communities.
The grant will aid NHKS in expanding person-centered mental health services, focusing on promptly meeting the needs of all who seek services in the Northeast Kingdom. The funding will also assist in professional development for staff and create a more enhanced and expanded care coordination with community partners and primary care providers.
NKHS’ Executive Director, Kelsey Stavseth, said, “It is incredibly exciting to have received this grant. This award will help enhance our services, with the ultimate purpose of being a better, more integrated and person-centered organization for those who live in the NEK. It’s also an acknowledgment of the exceptionally hard work the staff at NKHS has put into serving the community. We look forward to growing and learning through this grant, which will allow us to provide a more comprehensive range of services.”
Pictured from left to right: Dave Horton, NKHS 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline employee, Josh Burke, NKHS Director of Emergency Services, and Chris Allen, Director of Suicide Prevention, Vermont Department of Mental Health.
Kelsey Stavseth, NKHS Executive Director, commented on how the upcoming move will allow for program expansion, noting an increased need for Vermonters to connect and support their fellow community members. "988 is an essential service and support because it is available immediately, which we know is essential to great mental health care and responding to people contemplating suicide. I am proud of the 988 staff who show up every day, night and weekend to support other Vermonters during a time of great need," says Stavseth.
Chris Allen shared, "The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline in Vermont has been transformative in providing accessible, life-saving, crisis care. As we celebrate the one-year milestone of 988 at NKHS, we not only applaud its profound impact on our community but also recognize the unwavering dedication of the 988 Lifeline staff who make this work possible. Together we are building a culture of care, resilience and hope."
If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, call/chat/text 988.