BENNINGTON -- United Counseling Service hosted its annual legislative forum, on Monday, Jan. 27, to discuss the issues and express concerns facing mental health and human service community in Vermont.

One of the key agenda items discussed was the initiative from Gov. Peter Shumlin to combat opiate addiction across the state.

Legislators who attended the forum included; Sen. Robert Hartwell (D-Bennington), Sen. Richard "Dick" Sears (D-Bennington), Rep. William Botzow (D-Bennington-1), Rep. Brian Campion (D-Bennington 2-1), Rep. Timothy Corcoran (D-Bennington 2-1), Rep. Alice Miller (D-Bennington 3), Rep. Anne Mook (D-Bennington 2-2), Rep. Mary Morrissey (R-Bennington 2-2), and Rep. Jeffrey Wilson.

UCS Executive Director Ralph Provenza provided insight on the legislative session and the upcoming budget process from the perspective of mental health service providers. "We strongly support Governor Shumlin’s 2 percent Medicaid funding increase to support Vermont’s most vulnerable population, and his initiative to combat the opiate and substance use epidemic affecting so many Vermonters. I also want to thank and applaud our legislators for their advocacy on behalf of the people we help," he said in a release.

Senator Sears acknowledged the importance of working together to help people in need or struggling with substance use issues, "We’ve done a good job reducing drug abuse due to organizations like UCS and the hospital working together, but we have a long way to go to help those struggling with addiction.


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I’ll work hard in the legislature to continue providing the mental health community with the tools they need to make a difference in the lives of our people."

"I’m very pleased with the number of organizations who are here today working together because it’s ultimately our community that benefits," said Rep. Anne Mook. "I want to thank you all for working to meet the health needs of the people living in Bennington."

In addition to substance abuse initiatives, Provenza outlined a number of other issues that have a direct impact on designated agencies.

These topics ranged from human service funding levels, to the impact of new health care reform, involuntary treatment, accountable care organizations, and how to protect children who witness domestic abuse.