As Chair of the Board of Northeast Kingdom Human Services, I am happy to announce that the Department of Mental Health has given its final approval to our corrective action plan and now we can fully engage in its implementation. It has been a challenging time and we appreciate the support and encouragement that members of the community have offered us during the process. As we begin the next phase to fully re-designate our agency, I am reaching out to the community for help we need to make that happen.

Community mental health is designed to serve and meet the mental health needs of the community. To do this, it relies on the community for establishing the needs and for feedback on its performance in meeting these needs. As one of the Vermont’s Designated Agencies, we are required to seek community input into our planning and our implementation.

One of the ways that this occurs is through the local program standing committees of the board which are related to the service programs the Designated Agency provides. NKHS provides services through three state mental health programs: developmental disabilities, substance abuse and mental health. Therefore, NKHS has four local program standing committees: developmental disabilities, substance abuse and one each in adult and children’s mental health services. These committees, which are mandated by our contracts with the State of Vermont, are advisory bodies to NKHS with regard to the services provided to the population they represent. This includes reviewing and commenting on policies pertaining to services in the area they represent, reviewing information and commenting on quality and responsiveness of services as well as frequency, types and resolution of complaints about services. They are involved in the development of a local system of care plan to help set priorities for resource allocation and are to provide feedback regarding program management and operations.

Administrative rules stipulate that Local Program Standing Committees must have at least 5 members and greater than 51% must be disclosed consumers or family members. One Board member must be on each committee. Staff members serve as advisors to the committees, but unless specifically permitted, are not members of the committee.

The Board of NKHS is seeking community members to serve on our local program standing committees, especially in the areas of adult and children’s mental health. We are particularly in need of people who are disclosed consumers or family members, i.e. people with a lived- experience of a mental disability or substance abuse problem either personally or with a family member. Disclosed consumers do not have to have received services from NKHS. It is the lived- experience and the perspective that it brings that is important.

Our local standing committees meet monthly via Zoom:

• Children’s—the first Monday of the month from noon-1 p.m.

• Addictions—the second Monday of the month from 9-10:30 a.m.

• Adult MH—the third Wednesday of the month from 2-3:30 p.m.

• Developmental Disabilities –the fourth Wednesday of the month from 9-10 AM. Currently, we are meeting via Zoom.

If you have the time and interest to participate in one of our Local Program Standing Committees, please contact me at dniemira@comcast.net.

NKHS has the resilience and the dedicated staff to emerge from our current situation stronger and better able to meet our communities mental health needs. We need your participation to help us define and prioritize these needs. Thank you.

Dr. Denise A. Niemira chairs the NKHS board.

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