Mature woman and her adult daughter with little baby having quarrel at home

The opioid epidemic in Vermont has taken a crushing blow on young families. Addison County is no exception. The number of young children, including toddlers and babies, that were taken into custody by Vermont’s child protective system has overwhelmed the Department of Children and Families (DCF) in Vermont.  

An opioid addiction can also break family bonds making it difficult for family members to feel safe around the individual struggling with the addiction. Without the proper support, family members and friends may become discouraged and feel as if they have nowhere to turn. With the help of organizations like the United Way and the referral service of  Vermont 211, a program of the United Ways, as well as Help Me Grow Vermont, help is a literally a call away. 

Jesse Brooks, United Way of Addison County Regional Prevention Partnership Coordinator/ H.E.L.P. Director discusses the many ways that the United Way and their community partners are supporting families in Addison County.

The United Way of Addison County focuses on health, education and financial stability for everyone in the Addison County community. Our goal is to support individuals, agencies, organizations, and community partners to be happy, healthy and successful. Through the support of the Regional Prevention Partnership grant the United Way has been addressing the emerging needs of youth and families in Addison County. Through our work we have seen an increase in need for resources due to the opioid epidemic impacting young moms, fathers, infants and youth. Families need education, information, resources and support in a variety of ways due to their struggle with substance use disorders. We are seeing an increase in the need for foster care, an increase in the need for first response teams such as law enforcement and EMT, and an increase of inquiries and use of local resources such as public transportation, mental health, and child care to support folks in treatment and recovery.

One of the programs that directly supports young families is Help Me Grow Vermont, which offers a contact center operated by trained child development specialists who  can address families’ concerns and questions about their child’s behavior, development and learning, and connect them to community resources. You can reach a Help Me Grow specialist seven days a week, 24 hours a day by dialing 2-1-1 ext. 6, Monday-Friday between 9 am and 6 pm, texting your zip code to 898211 or by referral and email through Help Me Grow’s website. This a FREE service available to all. By strengthening protective factors in families, Help Me Grow VT supports parents and caregivers to better understand and promote their child’s social and emotional well-being and encourages children’s readiness to learn and succeed in school. Help Me Grow VT supports collaboration between health professionals, early care and education professionals, human services providers, and families to better identify and address the needs of children in Vermont. 

Vermont 2-1-1 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by dialing 2-1-1 or texting your zip code to 898211.

In response to our community’s need, the United Way is stepping up and supporting programs and causes that directly address these needs. Below you can learn more about the United Way programs in Addison County and how you can be a part of the solution.

5 Ways the United Way of Addison County in collaboration with community partners is serving youth and families in the midst of an Opioid Crisis

  • CPR Certification – We are currently working in collaboration with local high schools and local first response crews to fund and support CPR certification classes as part of the health class curriculum. Our goal is to support and offer every student with the opportunity to become CPR certified as a life and life-saving skill which builds confidence and their resume. You can learn more about becoming CPR certification through your local EMT First Response Crew.
  • NARCAN Training – It is vital that we not only continue to distribute NARCAN (an opioid antagonist) but to also work with all community members and partners (including youth and families) to train on how to administer NARCAN, with emphasis on the first step being to call 9-1-1 to ensure proper medical care follow up. You can access free NARCAN and free NARCAN training at Turning Point Center in Middlebury, located at 54 Creek Rd you can learn more about their services by calling them at 802-388-4249.
  • Neurobiology of Addiction Training Series – On November 6th, 7th, and 8th at the Middlebury Inn located in the heart of Middlebury, VT from 8am – 4pm the United Way of Addison County through the Regional Prevention Partnership grant is hosting a 3-day training series on the Neurobiology of Addiction presented by Joseph Zanella who has 31 years of experience working with mental health and addiction issues. This training has 3 target audiences and day one is geared towards families, parents and educators. The training is FREE and includes breakfast and lunch. We encourage folks to reach out for more information if interested.
  • H.E.L.P. – which stands for Heroin Epidemic Learning Program, is an 8 to 10-week voluntary youth prevention program that exposes high school students to the dangers of opioids, co-created by our Prevention Coordinator, Jesse Brooks. The first four weeks of the program are hosted by various volunteer experts including representatives from AEMT, law enforcement and addiction recovery. During the second half of the program, students are placed in groups and use what they learn to film an original, 30-second public service announcement (PSA). The PSAs are submitted to the HELP committee, where they are individually viewed and judged. The best PSA gets professionally edited to air on local and national television, and the students win a prize. This winter, Jesse Brooks (Prevention Coordinator) will be bringing our youth prevention program, H.E.L.P., to Mount Abraham High School and Hannaford Career Center where she expects to serve over 100 students (double the number of students served last year at four high schools). We are working on finalizing a contract to bring H.E.L.P. to Rutland High School (sponsored by United Way of Rutland County) and are continuing conversations with CVU, Northeast Kingdom High School, and South Burlington High School.  
  • Workplace Resource CoordinatorTrish Lafayette, our Workplace Resource Coordinator contracts with local businesses to help their employees with every day stress that may distract them from work. She supports employees and their family members with needs such as housing, transportation, childcare, financial education, financial strain and credit to name a few. We do this by coaching on a peer level and referring them to local agencies, resources and community partners to help with their presenting needs. Trish Lafayette works closely with employers and HR departments to provide much needed and sought out resources that are not already a workplace benefit. We take pride in our United @ Work Program as it helps improve our community and community members one workplace at a time.

How do we know this program has an impact? Ask one of her clients: “Thank you so much for hooking me up with Trish- she’s amazing. She found us a beautiful apartment that is handicap accessible at a price I can afford, she’s working on my medical insurance and feels we can drop the premium down about 300 dollars a month! (Trish) is also working on getting my wife on disability, she’s going to work with me on my credit score so hopefully at some point we can get into a house of our own; just when I lost all hope and I thought my entire life was ruined she showed me it’s just beginning. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, me and my family are grateful.”

For more information about the United Way of Addison County, the opioid epidemic, prevention, treatment, and recovery or to learn more about how you can support Addison County youth and families please contact Jesse Brooks (Prevention Coordinator) or Trish Lafayette (Workplace Resource Coordinator) at the United Way of Addison County by calling the office at 802-388-7189 or by emailing Jesse at jesse@unitedwayaddisoncounty.org or Trish at trish@unitedwayaddisoncounty.org

 

By Jesse Brooks, United Way of Addison County

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