Centerpoint, Which Educates and Counsels Hundreds of Teens, Is Poised to Close
By Alison Novak for Seven Days
Centerpoint Adolescent Treatment Services, which has long provided counseling and educational services to hundreds of at-risk young people, is scheduled to close on September 1 — even as the number of teens needing mental health support soars.
Centerpoint, which also runs a therapeutic school for teens, will shut down unless a new provider steps up, the three organizations that currently operate it said. Howard Center, Northeastern Family Institute Vermont and Matrix Health Systems blamed financial pressures for the closure; by one estimate, Centerpoint has lost $1.5 million over the past two years.
The operating partners “have been working with program leadership over the last several months to develop a new agency that could run Centerpoint,” NFI Vermont executive director Chuck Myers said in a statement. “Unfortunately, at this time that has not happened, although efforts are continuing.”
He cited “significant financial losses” over the past two years and “multiple decades of chronic underfunding of mental health and substance use services” that have made operating Centerpoint unsustainable.
Other local nonprofit service providers said they, too, face financial strain as inflation drives up costs, state funding remains stagnant and insurance reimbursement rates don’t cover expenses. Another one of Vermont’s roughly 30 therapeutic schools, Mosaic Learning Center, closed in June after 20 years. With campuses in Colchester and Morrisville, it served elementary through high school students.
The issue has the attention of Vermont’s congressional delegation. Last Thursday, U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Rep. Becca Balint (D-Vt.) held a town meeting at Spaulding High School in Barre to discuss the “national emergency” in youths’ mental health and the severe shortage of critical services. In April, Balint introduced a bill that would establish a grant program to train teachers, caregivers and students to recognize symptoms of mental health disorders in children and adolescents and refer them to resources in the community. She also cosponsored the bipartisan Protecting Young Minds Online Act, which would require the federal government to develop a strategy to address the effects of social media and other new technologies on children’s mental health.
In an interview, Balint said she knows from speaking with parents and kids in northern Vermont that the closure of Centerpoint will be “devastating.”
“It’s the worst possible time for this to happen, given that we’re in the midst of this terrible mental health crisis,” Balint said. “The solutions, long-term, are going to require the kind of money you can only get from federal funds.” Balint said that’s a challenge considering the “incredible dysfunction” in Congress.
Community advocates say Centerpoint’s struggles are indicative of a larger problem.
“As nonprofits struggle to meet an increasing demand for services — without an increase in funding — Vermont communities will continue to feel the direct impact of lower service capacities and a shrinking workforce,” United Way of Northwest Vermont CEO Jesse Bridges said in a statement.
Mark Redmond, executive director of Spectrum, agreed.
“The majority of human service providers have been funded at the same level by the state for years on end — Spectrum included — and insurance companies don’t reimburse for the full cost of care,” Redmond wrote in an email. “With inflation at 8 to 9 percent, nonprofits who rely on state or insurance dollars to accomplish their mission are in an almost impossible position. Simply put, we cannot do 2023 work based on 2013 dollars.”