Advocates renew calls for expanded mental health care access – WCAX

Advocates Renew Calls For Expanded Mental Health Care Access Wcax
Advocates Renew Calls For Expanded Mental Health Care Access Wcax

BARTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Four months after calling on state officials to expand mental health care access in the Northeast Kingdom, Northeast Kingdom Organizing is renewing their call.

Members say some people have waited months, or years, to get care.

Northeast Kingdom Organizing has come up with a list of six demands for Northeast Kingdom Human Services. They want:

1) A full-time child therapist

2) A part-time clinic in Barton

3) A reduced waiting list

4) Three homes to provide respite care for children and youth in Orleans

5) Staff to fulfil the terms of the Senior Counseling Contract with the Area Agency on Aging and

6) Staff to deliver coordinated services with Newport Pediatrics.

Northeast Kingdom Organizing says residents can’t wait any longer for adequate mental health care, given the pandemic.

“It’s just really sad that we can’t get some of these needs being met now,” said Heather Legacy. “We’re trying really hard to be there for Northeast Kingdom Human Services, to stay in the loop with them and be of support to them as well.”

Northeast Kingdom Human Services Interim Director Paul Bengtson says NKHS was on the brink of de-designation several months ago, but the Department of Mental Health recently informed that their status has been upgraded from “provisional status with intent to de-designate” to “provisional status without intent to de-designate.”

Bengtson says they now have six months to meet and exceed expectations from the Department of Mental Health. That includes making sure records are completed in a timely fashion, and that wait lists are greatly reduced.

“But you don’t want to do that by redefining what a waiting list is. You want to make sure you’re actually improving your access to services, so the goal is to fill key positions,” Bengtson said.

Bengtson says he agrees with Northeast Kingdom Organizing’s list of demands. He also says he believes the requests are realistic and he hopes to accomplish them within the next year.

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