Community Initiative Addresses Unmet Social Service Needs

Howard Center and the municipalities of South Burlington, Colchester, Williston, Winooski, Essex, and Shelburne are pleased to announce a new community program which will serve adults, children, and families. The program was jointly developed by Howard Center staff, the city and town managers, and the city and town police chiefs with support from the Department of Mental Health. Al Gobeille, Secretary, Vermont Agency of Human Services says, “We are pleased to support this new initiative and regional collaboration and are confident that we have a unique opportunity to better serve our communities.”

The new Community Outreach Program, inspired by the Burlington Street Outreach model, is designed to create a supportive presence in the participating communities. Community Outreach Specialists will work in partnership with local and regional law enforcement to respond to individuals with unmet social service needs, often due to mental health or substance use issues. This will allow law enforcement to more effectively use resources to address criminal behaviors.

Catherine Simonson, Howard Center Chief Client Services Officer says, “Howard Center’s award-winning Street Outreach Team has a long and successful history of providing consultation and intervention for the Burlington Police Department, merchants, service providers, and other concerned community members. The model has been incredibly successful and has been replicated in other U.S. and Canadian cities. It is a natural progression to begin to provide similar services and support to our neighboring communities.”

South Burlington City Manager Kevin Dorn says, “Community Outreach is another great example of multiple communities coming together to address a common concern in a more effective and efficient manner. Having the community outreach specialists available will enable police officers to focus their efforts on addressing criminal behavior and building a healthier and safer community. We greatly appreciate our partnership with and leadership of the Howard Center.”

Funding for the program will come from a variety of sources, including the participating towns and cities and the Department of Mental Health. Community Outreach Specialists will be Howard Center employees. The team will initially be available Monday through Friday and will have office space within local police departments.

Watch the video from the press conference: