May is Mental Health Awareness Month

Now more than ever people are more aware of the importance of living mentally healthy

“Since 1949, Mental Health America and our affiliates across the country have observed May is Mental Health Month by reaching out to millions of people through the media, local events, and screenings. We invite other organizations to join us in spreading the word that mental health is something everyone should care about by using the May is Mental Health Month toolkit materials and conducting awareness activities.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on the mental health of people of all ages. Now, more than ever, it is critical to reduce the stigma around mental health struggles, because that stigma often prevents individuals from seeking help.”

– Mental Health America

The focus at Clara Martin Center (CMC) has always been on the health and wellbeing of those that we serve. Even during the past year of “stay at home” orders, our focus remained on our mission. We stayed open and provided our services, just a little differently. We are responded to the unfolding COVID-19 situation with daily adjustments in how we provide care. Our top priority was, and continues to be, the health and safety of everyone in our communities, including all of our staff.

Governor Phil Scott had designated mental health and substance use disorder services employees as essential workers. The Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health, Sarah Squirrell stated “In order to honor the intent of the most recent order from Governor Scott to mitigate and slow the spread of COVID-19, it is absolutely critical that providers continue to identify essential services with the health and safety of both staff and recipients in mind. As a reminder, “Essential Services” are services that assure the health and safety of a person. Essential Services delivered in-person to a client may continue if the services cannot be provided in an alternate, remote way such as telehealth, telephone, or other remote platform. All in-person service delivery
must follow precautions previously set forth by the Department of Mental Health.”

The Clara Martin Center met the immediate challenge and changed how they provide services. To ensure that we were able to continue to safely and responsibly provide care there were continual changes in response to how the agency protected and interacted with clients, staff, and residents of our communities. With several State and Federal Laws passed as a result of COVID-19, it was imperative that the agency had to immediately know and understand how they would affect the business, the workforce, and the clients. Every day was a new day with new information and challenges presented. For more than a year now the Clara Martin Center has been facing the challenges in the areas of programming, staffing, community, and infrastructure as
outlined below.


  • Case Managers were still providing outreach services in the community such as grocery shopping for high risk clients, medication delivery to help maintain clients in their homes, education around universal precautions, safety measures, and development of remote capacity for individuals and group treatment options.
  • Therapists continued to support their clients over the telephone. This has been well received because it allows the client to continue on in their treatment yet remain in the safety of their own homes.
  • There were some treatment groups which have continued via Zoom video conferencing. We expanded our Zoom capability from group work to include individual services.
  • The Substance Use and Criminal Justice Services Program conducted video Zoom groups and individual phone Zoom sessions for substance use specific groups such as Intensive Outpatient Program, individual and case management services. The program has also been providing remote individual support for people with a history of sexual offending. There is continued collaboration with probation and parole, the VT Domestic Violence Council, the DUI Docket, and Victim’s Advocates.
  • Emergency service evaluations have been provided remotely to CMC clients through the use of telehealth. Both voluntary and involuntary assessments are being completed through the use of telehealth and CMC emergency staff work from home to facilitate needed admissions to hospitals.
  • Independent schools, East Valley Academy and Hartford Regional Alternative Program, closed for the 2019/2020 year and staff focused on providing regular outreach calls to students and families to maintain services over the summer; planning and delivery of educational aspects coordinated for each student including purchasing of needed equipment to facilitate both remote and in person education, with a return to school for 2020/2021 school year.


  • Approximately 85% of staff have been transitioned to work remotely from home with remaining staff working in each office supporting the operational needs within the organization.


  • We have been working with the VT Food Bank and the Vermont Everyone Eats program (Funded by the VT Legislature and administered by SEVCA) to assure availability at CMC food bank in Bradford to meet client needs; Coordinating with the Randolph Area Food Shelf to pick up pre-packaged bags of food and delivering to clients in the community.
  • We are working with Gifford Medical Center Behavioral Health Staff and Medical Staff on as needed mental health response support.
  • Outreach to all law enforcement agencies in the area has been ongoing for the planning around mental health responses. We have been providing community based assessments (where available) through the use of telehealth while also available to respond in person with law enforcement if needed.
  • Town mutual aid collaborations have been occurring as well as the development with other community partners for Randolph, Brookfield, Braintree, Hancock, Granville, Rochester, and Bradford currently.
  • CMC Public Relations work is focused on community education, maintaining mental health and sobriety through the use of social media, website, signs on all facility doors, and letters to clients.

The Clara Martin Center continues to work every day to help stabilize our local communities. As we begin navigating out of lockdown we are reassessing how we’ve been providing care and services in order to determine how it will look moving forward and it may well look like a hybrid model of the remote & in person care.

The Clara Martin Center would like to mention how important and valuable our employees are; they steppedup, worked hard, and were dedicated to being there for the agency & our clients during these most difficult & challenging times. Most staff transitioned to working remotely; however, there were those staff who couldn’t work from home, either due to covering the agency’s residential services, covering the phones, or insuring the client care and business functions continued. The heartfelt dedication and commitment that the employees have given to the clients and to the agency is greatly appreciated.

“Words cannot express my gratitude to each and every one of our staff for their can-do spirit, their teamwork, their commitment to ensuring our clients and staff are supported and taken care of, and for taking care of each other during this challenging time. It is this positive spirit that gives me hope that we will come out stronger on the other end of this crisis.”

Melanie Gidney, Executive Director

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