Press Releases

Stay informed and be inspired by all the ways in which Northeast Kingdom Human Services is making a positive impact on the lives of individuals, families and the broader community.

March 8, 2024

VT Digger Sponsor Spotlight Series

A Crisis Continuum of Care - Improving Public Safety by Providing Therapeutic Alternatives for Vermonters

Northeast Kingdom Human Services (NKHS) plans to launch its Front Porch Program, a mental health urgent care initiative, in 2024. This final and long-awaited service completes a community-based crisis continuum of care.

The desire to create a 24/7 mental health facility started years ago through advocacy work from Betty and Chris Barrett of Newport Center, 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. NKHS and the Barretts gathered support from Northeast Kingdom community members, healthcare facilities, law enforcement agencies, community healthcare partners, legislators, and the governor's office to bring The Front Porch to fruition.

NKHS Executive Director Kelsey Stavseth presented the plan for The Front Porch to Newport community members.

The Front Porch aims to reshape mental health support in the NEK. Individuals experiencing a mental health crisis need access to comfortable, safe, and supportive spaces for care. Often, Vermonter's only choice when experiencing a non-life threatening mental health crisis is to visit their local emergency department, and law enforcement frequently becomes the community-based mental health crisis responders. As a result, our communities experience higher rates of incarceration among individuals experiencing mental health crises, emergency department boarding, and increased utilization of more restrictive and more expensive levels of care. The Front Porch will introduce innovative hospital diversion programs that reduce the strain on hospital emergency departments and navigate the complexities of mental health care while prioritizing individual preferences and community integration in a therapeutic environment.

Incorporating the below care approaches will help to ensure The Front Porch is a welcoming, secure, and healing space for everyone.

Community-Centric Solutions: The emphasis on community integration is central. The Front Porch recognizes the importance of familiar environments and how that fosters a sense of belonging. Receiving care close to one's community reduces anxiety and strengthens the individual's connection to their community.

Person-Centered Care: The commitment to person-centered care allows individuals to define food, clothing, and activity preferences. Recognizing and respecting individual choices enhances treatment and contributes to a more positive experience.

Empowering Individuals: The Front Porch encourages individuals to take an active role in their recovery, empowering them to participate actively in their mental health journey. This approach strengthens the sense of agency and self-efficacy, contributing to overall wellbeing.

Hospital Diversion: Implementing hospital diversion programs aligns with the broader goal of reshaping mental health care. This approach relieves pressure on emergency services and redirects individuals toward more community-oriented and personalized support.

Diverse Treatment Options: The availability of diverse treatment options, from group therapy sessions to one-on-one counseling, ensures that individuals can access services tailored to their needs. This flexibility is essential in addressing the unique challenges that each person may face in their mental health journey.

Private Spaces for Recovery: Providing private spaces for recovery reflects a deep understanding of the need for comfort and security in the healing process. Creating a comfortable and secure environment contributes to a positive atmosphere for individuals undergoing treatment.

Supportive Community within the Center: Encouraging meaningful interactions among individuals creates a supportive community. This communal aspect enhances connection, allowing individuals to share experiences and encouragement. Peer support can be a powerful component of mental health recovery.

Each individual has unique needs that require specific solutions. The scenarios below illustrate how The Front Porch will provide specialized support to help people manage their mental health distress.

Coping with a Panic Attack

Q: I frequently experience panic attacks and need a calming space. Can the Front Porch help during these intense moments?

A: Absolutely. The Front Porch will offer a tranquil and supportive environment for managing panic attacks. Trained professionals will provide immediate assistance, ensuring a secure space for individuals grappling with heightened anxiety.

Contemplating Suicidal Ideation

Q: I'm struggling with thoughts of self-harm. Is the Front Porch equipped to handle situations involving suicidal ideation?

A: Yes. The Front Porch recognizes the urgency of such situations. The program will provide immediate intervention and a safe, confidential space for individuals. Trained staff will offer the necessary support and connect individuals with appropriate resources for long-term care.

Resolving a Home Dispute and Gaining Perspective

Q: I had a heated dispute at home and need space to think and calm down. Can the Front Porch offer a place to gain perspective?

A: Certainly. The Front Porch understands that interpersonal conflicts can be overwhelming. The program provides a space for individuals to temporarily step away from challenging situations, gain coping skills, and reflect before returning home.

Seeking Coping Skills for Daily Life

Q: I struggle with managing daily stressors. Can The Front Porch assist in developing coping skills?

A: Absolutely. The program will offer various treatment options, including one-on-one therapy and group sessions. Individuals can learn and practice coping skills in a supportive environment, gaining tools to navigate the complexities of daily life.

Needing Time Away from Stressful Environments

Q: I feel overwhelmed and need a break from my stressful environment. Can the Front Porch Crisis provide a temporary escape?

A: Yes. The Front Porch acknowledges the importance of creating a space for individuals seeking respite from overwhelming environments. It will be a place where you can take a step back, regroup, and access the support needed before reengaging with external stressors.

Beyond the Front Porch, NKHS's Emergency Services Department has four other programs available for people in crisis, allowing them to move freely between different service levels during and pre/post-crisis. These other crisis services include 988, Vermont State Police Embedded Mental Health Crisis Specialists, Frontline Emergency Supports, and a 2 Person Co-Occurring Mobile Crisis supports.

988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: Since June 2021, NKHS has provided 105 hours of service per week to the national suicide prevention hotline. Vermont callers who dial 988 from an 802 area code reach a lifeline call responder trained to support a person in crisis. Responders also connect with individuals through online chats and text messaging. This service gives the caller control of their communication style and the connection they need to stabilize and feel supported.

988 Call Responder Kelsea Aldrich wraps up her overnight shift at the NKHS 988 Call Center in Lyndonville, VT.

Embedded/Mental Health Crisis Specialists (MHCS): In June 2021, NKHS embedded two mental health specialists in the Debry and St. Johnsbury Vermont State Police barracks. The MHCSs help divert those experiencing a mental health crisis from utilizing the ED, decrease inpatient hospitalization, and reduce police intervention and arrests.

Mobile Crisis: A state-wide program launched in January 2024, Mobile Crisis ensures all Vermonters have access to support 24 hours a day. The program deploys a 2-person team to where and when it's most convenient for those in crisis.

NKHS understands the value of meeting people where they are, both physically and emotionally. A broad and diverse mental health care culture ensures no gaps in coverage and the ability to deliver comprehensive care during challenging and intense times.

The future home of The Front Porch, 235 Lakemont Road, Newport City, VT.

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.