U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt. 

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MONTPELIER — Hundreds of Vermonters plan to rally for a virtual Mental Health Advocacy Day on Jan. 31 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Mental health organizations, peers, family members, and advocates will call on Vermont leaders and legislators to support mental health and inform them that “Now is the Time for Hope & Recovery.”

Mental Health Advocacy Day will address the devastating impact COVID is having on the mental health and well-being of many Vermonters. Julie Tessler of Vermont Care Partners noted “throughout the country children, youth, adults and seniors are all experiencing more depression, anxiety, suicidality, and substance misuse. Many Vermonters, including the people we serve with developmental disabilities, are coping with isolation and loss of meaningful activities such as employment and time with family and friends.

“A growing threat is the loss of workforce to meet the needs of Vermonters. Over 20 percent of staff positions at designated and specialized service agencies are vacant leading to nearly 800 Vermonters waiting for necessary services, closures and reduction of hours at crisis beds and other services, and 88 people with disabilities waiting for a home. Sadly, this will have lasting impacts.” said Tessler. She added, “The staff deserve our applause and recognition for working tremendous and unsustainable overtime to support critical mental health, developmental and substance use disorder services.”

In Vermont approximately 125,000 people are affected by mental illness – that’s 1 in 5 individuals. Nearly 1 in 25 adults live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression, or bipolar disorder. Most people living with mental illness lead fulfilling, productive lives, but only with access to treatment and community care. Like health care, mental health affects all of us. Fifty percent of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and 75 percent by age 24. A focus on promotion, prevention, and intervention strategies through community resources will reduce the impact of mental health conditions in Vermont, advocates said.

Mental Health Advocacy Day will include a welcome address from (invited) state leaders, including U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, Governor Phil Scott, Lt. Governor Molly Gray, Interim Secretary of Human Services Jenney Samuelson, Speaker of the House Jill Krowinski, Commissioner of Mental Health Emily Hawes, and other legislative committee chairs. Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint will be the keynote speaker. In the afternoon, individuals will share lived-experience stories.


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