Governor Phil Scott and the Department of Mental Health Highlight Distribution of $4.6 Million in Federal Funds to Enhance and Expand Mental Health Services
Funding Will Also Support New Mobile Response Pilot in Rutland to Support Families in Need
Montpelier, Vt. – A range of new and strengthened services will make getting help easier as the Department of Mental Health (DMH) provides $4.6 million in federal funds to local mental health and other service agencies across the state. These funds are available through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021.
“While Vermont is a leader in the mental health services we provide, we know there is more work to do and more people to serve,” said Governor Scott. “I appreciate the work of our Congressional Delegation – Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch – in securing critical federal funding for our state, and the Legislature for its partnership in using these funds to strengthen our mental health system.”
“We are all feeling the effects of COVID-19, and for some, the stress has been overwhelming,” said Emily Hawes, commissioner of DMH. “These funds allow us to boost existing services and launch new, important outreach and support that will help people in immediate need and also help prevent greater need later on.”
The Department has designed grants with an eye toward strengthening existing services as much as possible. Additionally, more than half a million dollars will go to a new program, proposed by Governor Scott, to pilot a mobile response approach that brings services directly to families in need. These Mobile Response and Stabilization Services will ease the strain on services in Rutland County, and has the potential to prevent children and youth from experiencing worse outcomes due to delayed access to help.
Mobile Response takes services to children and their families in their homes or out in the community. The program will be operational on October 1, at which time any Rutland County family can ask for immediate support, and a team from Rutland Mental Health Services will respond. Rutland is an ideal region for the pilot as the county has the highest average emergency department visits for children and youth with mental health needs in Vermont, as well as the highest proportion of crisis response happening in emergency departments for children.
“We’re very excited about Mobile Response,” Hawes added. “This is a way to get families the support where and when they need them, before more intensive mental health crisis or hospital services are required.”
The State is investing $600,000 in federal funds for the program, which is a one-year pilot. The Scott Administration hopes to expand it statewide and leverage Medicaid to cover a portion of the costs. In addition to providing critical services to children, youth and their families, Mobile Response should reduce the number of children and youth waiting in emergency departments for care. The additional early intervention services are also expected to relieve some of the pressures on the mental health workforce, which – like most sectors – is experiencing significant staffing shortages.
Another $4 million will be distributed later this calendar year to expand existing housing and community-based mental health services or to make the facilities compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“It would be hard to overstate how important these updates are,” Hawes said. “Safe facilities expand capacity to provide services, since the inability to navigate stairs, narrow doorways, or even failing structures, puts people at risk. Bad air quality, lack of insulation and other issues can mean people avoid a facility altogether.
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