The people who live and work at the residential care home operated by Washington County Mental Health Services (WCMHS) will soon find it easier to enter the building, and warmer once they get inside. For the first time, the building is fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, meaning anyone in a wheelchair is able to enter the building unassisted.
In the fall of 2021, Vermont received $4 million through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to make existing housing and community-based service facilities providing mental health services more accessible, safe, compliant with the ADA, or expand their capacity to provide services. The WCMHS community residence is one of 19 locations to receive funds, and recently completed long-needed repairs and improvements to the building using federal grant money allocated by the legislature and distributed through the Department of Mental Health (DMH).
“It’s made an incredible difference,” said Darshane Campbell, a program manager at WCMHS. “It’s made this facility all-inclusive,” she said.
Funds went to 19 community services agencies which included mental health, specialized services agencies, and peer advocacy organizations. The recipients are using the funds to address air quality, lack of insulation and even, in some case, failing structures.
“It would be hard to overstate how important these updates are,” DMH Commissioner Emily Hawes said. “If someone can’t navigate stairs or get a wheelchair through narrow doorways, they’re not going to return or be able to live in a building where they can get the mental health care they need. These funds are allowing our community mental health agencies to invest in safety and well-being in ways that haven’t been possible in many years.”
The agencies estimate another $12 million in repairs are needed. Even so, WCMHS Executive Director Mary Moulton said the funds meant significant improvements could be made.
“This opportunity allowed us to do a much-needed facelift as well as improving accessibility, insulation and safety,” Moulton said. “We’re so grateful for the opportunity given to us through the ARPA funds to make this happen for those needing this valuable support on their way to independence and recovery.”
Central Vermont ARPA Grant Awards
• Alyssum (Rochester): $24,431 for their peer respite center to renovate the kitchen and build a wheelchair ramp.
• Clara Martin Center (Randolph): $111,660 to weatherize and improve air quality in two different buildings where Vermonters with severe mental illness receive services.
• Green Mountain Support Services (Morrisville): $102,350 to upgrade their crisis and intensive support homes with electrical work, energy efficiency, and roof repairs.
• Lamoille County Mental Health (Morrisville): $146,090 to install air conditioning and update the electrical systems in residential facilities for clients living with physical and mental health conditions.
• Northeast Kingdom Human Services (Newport and St. Johnsbury): $304,365 to ensure their buildings have doorways, bathrooms and floors compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
• Northeastern Family Institute (South Burlington): $159,908 to renovate kitchen space at their North Hospital diversion program, improve accessibility at other buildings, and make improvements to their group and foster care homes.
• Upper Valley Services (Randolph and Bradford): $185,138 to complete paving repairs to increase accessibility at a home for Vermonters with developmental disabilities and mold remediation at another.
• Washington County Mental Health (Washington County): $410,515 to completed long-needed repairs and improvements at a residential care home.