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Chittenden Regional Project Highlight: Substance Use Disorder (SUD) – Making the Systems Work for Families


illustration by Mitch Blunt.

Overview

The SUD – Making the Systems Work for Families Project is embedded in the BBF statewide network. To describe this network briefly, BBF has 12 regions throughout Vermont that align with the Agency of Human Services districts. Each regional early childhood council, supported by one of BBF’s Regional Council Coordinators, brings together community members committed to young children and families. Councils are guided by a Regional Action Plan, and identify annual priority actions based on community needs and gaps. The Regional Councils also advise the BBF State Advisory Council on opportunities to strengthen both local and statewide systems of care, health, and education. The regional councils work locally to identify gaps, share best practices, strategize, and support response to community issues through their regional action plans. Regional councils also create community engagement opportunities to foster positive change for young children. Regional councils elevate local voice and advise the BBF State Advisory Council (SAC) on local issues, needs, and bright spots to strengthen both local and statewide early childhood systems.

Project & Population Focus

The Chittenden Regional Council recognized the need for increased coordination of services for young children and families impacted by Substance Use Disorder (SUD) in Chittenden County. We know that families get help and support from many different agencies, and coordinating and centralizing services is tremendously important in order to improve outcomes for children and families. SUD – Making the Systems Work for Families Project is a result of the BBF Chittenden Regional Council coming together, updating our action plan, recognizing gaps, and ultimately forming a Community of Practice (CoP) planning team to tackle this issue collectively. All of these important steps helped us use our neutral table to take a deeper dive into this issue, map out the current delivery system, and develop cross-sector strategies to improve upon the existing system of care. The University of Vermont Medical Center’s Collective Impact Grant has provided the funding and support for us to move our plans into action, and we are very excited to continue the implementation stage of our work for another year.

Partnerships & Special Project Highlight

Building effective partnerships is critical to the work of BBF at all levels including the  SUD – Making the Systems Work for Families Project. To effectively create authentic buy-in and support we have focused on increasing credibility through our initial strategies and our network of champions that are passionate about the issue and project. We know through our work partnerships that the organizations that serve kids and families are feeling more supported because of our efforts. An example of how we recently came together as a cross sector project team to move a strategy forward, is by creating communication tools that support our common goal of promoting the Strengthening Families Protective Factors framework as a shared practice across settings. The following is an overview of that special project.

The onset of COVID-19 and the ‘Stay at Home, Stay Safe’ order has posed myriad challenges for Vermonters, especially those who were disadvantaged prior to the order. Those struggling with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) have a unique set of challenges in this time, specifically the increased stressors we are all facing in combination with managing their disorder, in addition to difficulty accessing services designed to help them stay on track. Upon identifying this critical need through our Community of Practice discussions, BBF’s communications team pivoted to respond to these challenges and we developed infographics to be used for social media messaging, postcards, magnets, texts, emails, print, etc. with the intent to empower families and promote resilience. This communication strategy seeks to remind families that they are enough; they are strong; and they are doing enough for their children and broader family.  These images convey those messages and we are working hard to get the message across to families through our integrated network of partners.

Shared Vision to Move Forward

We believe that the severity and complexity of impact that substance use disorders are having on children and families and our community is significant, perhaps now more than ever, and requires a continuum of care and services that include promotion, prevention, treatment and recovery. This project leverages our cross-sector partnerships to develop and sustain multi-generational supports and services and meet families where they are. Continued leadership of a Community of Practice in Chittenden, and expansion to Grand Isle, is needed to bring together adult- and child-serving agencies and organizations to improve coordination and collaboration across siloed systems and provide better support to children and families impacted by substance use disorder.

For more information about this project and our partners, contact Amanda Biggs, abiggs@buldingbrightfutres.org.

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