The Howard Center has released the Fiscal Year 20 (the year ending on June 30, 2020) Annual Report on the Community Outreach Program. Community Outreach is a partnership between the municipalities of Colchester, Essex, Winooski, Willison, Richmond, Shelburne and South Burlington with the Howard Center, Vermont Department of Mental Health and the University of Vermont Medical Center that embeds a team of 5 mental health counselors in the police departments of the member communities.
The purpose of the program is to bring professional mental health councilors to the point of contact with residents or visitors suffering from mental health crisis rather than police or ambulance team members. The Councilors work to de-escalate any type of confrontational situation and then begin to understand the issues of concern with the individual and facilitate or direct that person to appropriate services and/or treatment.
The Howard Center employs and manages the five Counselors who are then dispatched out to individual police departments where they work side by side with patrol officers. When called they respond with an officer if there is concern about safety and other times on their own. The counselors then work with mental health and other service providers to get the individual what they need to resolve the issues of concern to the resident.
Over the years police officers in particular have been doing important work in helping to address the needs of individuals in mental health crisis but they do not receive the extensive training needed to deal effectively with the concerns of that individual. Having trained practitioners on site leads to better outcomes for the individual in need and frees police officers up to do other important functions.
The program has been deemed very successful to date and that success is depicted in the numbers found in the report.
View the report.