United Way of Northwest Vermont
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Mental Health Initiative

People experiencing mental health challenges and the systems designed to help them have been pushed to a breaking point. Already one of the hardest areas to address, mental health needs have worsened throughout COVID-19.

Emergency department beds are crowded with children and adults experiencing mental health crises who do not have timely access to treatment programs. Depression and anxiety, especially among youth, have spiked during the pandemic.

Now more than ever, we need to come together to strengthen mental health resources for ourselves and our neighbors.

Our Approach

United Way of Northwest Vermont’s Mental Health Initiative is elevating the voices of direct providers of mental health services, Vermonters with lived experience, and organizations and alliances focused on mental health and substance misuse.

Together we will work to align existing mental health resources, identify gaps in the system of care, and create a shared agenda and action items for our next steps.

Through extensive conversations with community partners, we have identified three initial priorities for the Mental Health Initiative to focus on:

  • Addressing Vermont’s critical labor shortage of mental health providers;

  • Strengthening and aligning resources for suicide prevention; and

  • Responding to the acute rise in youth mental health needs.

Our role is to work alongside our service partners on the ground, those with lived experience navigating mental health services, and policymakers to break down barriers to the systems change we need to promote better mental health and ensure community members who want it have timely access to effective mental health services.

Community partners who will help guide the Mental Health Initiative’s work include Howard Center, Northwestern Counseling & Support Services (NCSS), Vermont Care Partners, Spectrum Youth & Family Services, Vermont Suicide Prevention Center, and NAMI Vermont.

The Mental Health Initiative is made possible thanks to funding from the UVM Health Network, IBM and generous individual donors.

Click here to read our press release including quotes from our partners about why this work is so important.


Mental Health Initiative Action Teams

We are fortunate to have the support of five Action Team chairs who facilitate groups working on each of the Mental Health Initiative’s three priorities. The Workforce Development and Suicide Prevention teams are each led by one chair while the Youth Mental Health team is co-led by three co-chairs. Sign up to join an Action Team today!

Photos of the five chairs of the Mental Health Initiative Action Teams: Alex Lehning, Kayla Donohue, Marie Frietze, Sally Borden, Meghan Masterson


We know that we can strengthen fractured systems and help our neighbors receive better mental health services and supports, but it will take all of us working together. Will you join us?


Mental Health Initiative Newsletter

Sign up to receive news & updates! You can also read past newsletters by clicking on the links below.

Looking for earlier newsletters? Contact us.


An Employer Guide to Supporting Employee Mental Health was developed by United Way’s Working Bridges program and the Mental Health Initiative and is available online here: https://bit.ly/mental-health-toolkit.

The guide includes local resources, tips for recognizing and responding to mental health challenges, and recommended policies, benefits and everyday practices to build a supportive and inclusive workplace culture.

Mental Health Resources

  • Vermont 2-1-1: A program of United Ways of Vermont, Vermont 2-1-1 is a statewide, confidential information and referral helpline that connects callers to available human services.

  • 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, 988 provides 24/7 connection to confidential support with local counselors and mental health professionals.

  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention – Vermont: Resources for people having thoughts of suicide as well as suicide loss support groups and other resources for families and friends.

  • Howard Center’s First Call (Chittenden County): 802-488-7777. Phone support, crisis intervention, assessment and referrals.

  • NCSS Emergency Services Hotline (Franklin & Grand Isle Counties): 802-524-6554.

  • Vermont Care Partners – Vermont Mental Health Agencies: Mental health services information and crisis lines listed by county.

  • CAMS-trained Providers: A registry of Vermont Independent Mental Health Providers Trained in Suicide Specific Treatment Protocols.
  • Pathways Vermont Support Line: Peer support line open 24/7. Call or text (833) VT-TALKS / (833) 888-2557.

  • NAMI Vermont: Free peer and family support groups.

  • Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 (24 hours a day, seven days a week).

  • Outright Vermont: Support for the LGBTQ+ community.

  • Trevor Lifeline: 1-866- 488-7386 – provides suicide prevention and crisis intervention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) young people. It offers free, 24/7, confidential counseling. TrevorText—text START to 678-678; TrevorChat—instant messaging at TheTrevorProject.org/help. It also runs TrevorSpace, an affirming social networking site for LGBTQ youth at TrevorSpace.

  • Trans Lifeline: 877-565-8860. A peer support phone service run by trans people for trans and questioning peers.

  • Veterans Crisis Line: 24/7, confidential crisis support for Veterans and their loved ones. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or Text 838255. Online chat also available.

  • Vermont Directory of BIPOC Mental Health and Wellness Practitioners: A directory of providers working (or licensed to work) in the state of Vermont and who self-identify as Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Color. This is a public list, accessible to anyone via the internet, meant to promote the visibility of BIPOC providers and assist with referrals for clients who are seeking BIPOC providers.
  • Vermont Older Adults Helpline: Toll-free, confidential Helpline can be reached by calling 1-800-642-5119. The Helpline is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 am – 4:30 pm. After hours, please leave a message on the Helpline and they will reach out to you during their business hours.

Get Involved

Sign up to stay updated & get involved with the Mental Health Initiative.

Join Us

Mental Health Toolkit

Download our Mental Health Toolkit for Employers

Download Toolkit

“Effective solutions that address the challenges our mental health system faces, and that ensure Vermonters can get the care they need, without stigma, are going to require innovation and sustained collaboration. This is exactly what the Mental Health Initiative aims to generate.”

— Mark Levine, MD, Vermont Health Commissioner and UWNWVT Board member

United Way of Northwest Vermont*** September 16, 2022