Vermont has received a $2 million federal emergency grant to make sure people with mental health and substance use disorders can access care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Departments of Health and Mental Health will use the funds from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to expand services and supports for Vermonters who need them. The grant will also allow for increased access to mental health care for health care workers.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many essential services, such as in-home supports and interventions, in-person recovery support, overdose prevention, detoxification and treatment, such as receiving medication assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder.
“Maintaining access to this care is critical, especially for those who need to isolate or quarantine due to exposure to or symptoms of COVID-19 — including those experiencing homelessness,” said Cindy Seivwright, director of the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse programs for the Health Department. “This funding will allow us to adapt to the current climate and make sure we are helping those who need it most.”
“It’s easy to forget that COVID-19 stresses our mental health as well as being a risk for serious physical illness,” said Sarah Squirrell, Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health. “While we are fortunate that only a small percentage of Vermonters have gotten sick with COVID-19, all of us are under the strain of uncertainty, risk and the need to practice universal precautions to stay healthy – stresses that can lead to anxiety and depression.”
Commissioner Squirrel emphasized that the ability to provide support for the emotional and mental well-being of Vermont’s health care workers is critical. “A lot is asked of these essential workers — on the job and the effort needed to keep themselves and their families safe. This grant will help us meet our moral obligation to be there for them.”
The use of technology to provide telehealth services will be key to supporting Vermonters, especially when it comes to the 24-7 emergency services needed by those with severe mental illness, Squirrell said. “These crisis intervention services, along with increased outreach and peer support, will help us lessen the wide-ranging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Plans for use of the grant funding include:
• Allow for providers to deliver buprenorphine and methadone take-home doses to people who are receiving treatment from an opioid treatment program.
• Acquiring technology for those currently in isolation housing with substance use disorder, so they can participate in treatment through telehealth.
• Increasing staff time and the purchase of equipment for Vermont’s 12 Recovery Centers to respond to the increased demand for recovery supports.
• Expansion of mental health peer support services and outreach to vulnerable Vermonters.
• Expanding VT Helplink capacity for providing single source referral and supports to include referral to mental health services for the health care workforce.
• Increasing the capacity of the emergency services system to address suicide and severe mental illness by purchasing technology for the staff to provide telehealth services 24/7.
• Renovations to some of the facilities that house mental health crisis programs to allow for adequate social distancing.
• Adding mobile crisis response vans to reach clients with severe mental illness who live in remote areas.
Vermonters can contact VTHelplink.org for free, confidential and personalized information and referrals to substance use prevention, treatment and recovery services throughout the state.
Visit the Department of Mental Health website for information and resources for taking care of your mental health, helping others, and finding professional supports.
For up to date guidance and information about COVID-19, go to healthvermont.gov/covid19.