United Way of Northwest Vermont
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United Way Mental Health Initiative introduces Action Team leaders

Mental Health Initiative Action Team leaders

United Way’s Mental Health Initiative is bringing together community members from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences, and sectors to improve access to mental health care resources and services. Our action teams have recently started to come together to work on solutions in initial priority areas:

  • 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.

Over 80 participants have joined these action teams and will lead our effort by identifying goals, metrics, and action steps. We are fortunate to have the support of our five action team chairs who facilitate the groups. The guidance of these colleagues is critical in helping the Mental Health Initiative’s staff and action teams carry out our mission and goals.

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.

Suicide Prevention Chair: Alex Lehning

“To me, talking about suicide is essential work because the more we reduce stigma, foster hope, and cultivate pathways to access support and resources the more we can be there for our family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues when they need us most. I believe United Way of Northwest Vermont’s Mental Health Initiative will generate new ideas and new opportunities for connecting and taking action around this important issue. Our ‘collective impact’ model is the ideal approach for navigating these issues because it brings together expertise and experience to create and amplify meaningful change.”

Alex (he/him) is the Executive Director of the Vermont Cooperative for Practice Improvement & Innovation. He is a past United Way staff/Board member who enjoys hiking, writing, music, and exploring Vermont with his black lab Maggie.

Workforce Development Chair: Kayla Donohue

“Mental health is a pertinent part of overall health that has been stigmatized and overlooked for far too long. I’m thrilled to be part of the Mental Health Initiative and to help enhance our workforce to support the needs of our community.”

Kayla is currently a full-time graduate nursing student at the University of Vermont and previously worked for United Way of Northwest Vermont as the Community Data Insights Manager and as the Data Analyst for the Chittenden County Opioid Alliance. Kayla holds a Master’s in Public Health from Boston University and has a passion for promoting health equity and access to care.

Youth Mental Health Co-Chairs

Marie Frietze: “I do this work because I believe that taking care of mental health is just as important as physical health. I appreciate empathic, collaborative and creative approaches to supporting those in our community.”

Marie is a parent to two elementary aged children, a partner, amateur gardener, DIY home improver, and a prospective clinical mental health counselor.

Meghan Masterson: “I believe that all children deserve to be loved, cared for, and celebrated for who they are. Helping to improve the youth mental health system is one way for me to make this goal a reality.”

Meghan is the Assistant Director at KidSafe Collaborative, an organization whose mission is to bring community partners together to improve the wellbeing and safety of children and youth. She has spent her career working with children and families at organizations in Vermont and New Hampshire. Outside of work, Meghan enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and riding her bike.

Sally Borden: “I’m very committed, both professionally and personally, to addressing the issues that negatively affect kids’ and families’ mental health and wellbeing – be it personal experiences of trauma or our society’s systems, policies and practices which prevent people from succeeding. It’s only by working together that we can effectively address the breadth and scope of child and youth mental health and all that entails, and create and support a community where all children, youth and families have what they need to be healthy and thrive.”

Sally is the Executive Director of KidSafe Collaborative, an organization that brings together community partners to improve the prevention of and response to child maltreatment. Prior to her 23 years with KidSafe, she worked in the fields of domestic violence services and victim assistance. She lives in South Burlington where she and her partner raised their two now-grown children.

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