Take care of yourselves, your kids, your loved ones

First, the past couple weeks have been hideous. 

War in Israel and Gaza, concern for our Jewish friends, break-ins and car thefts in our normally peaceful town, the looming government shutdown while the U.S. House figures out how to manage itself and another deadly shooting, this time close to home in a way that makes us all pause and wonder not if it’s going to happen here, but when.

It’s a lot. I encourage everyone to check in on yourselves, your kids and your loved ones, and make sure they’re doing OK. If you or anyone you know is in crisis, you can text the letters “VT” to the number 741741, and you’ll immediately be in touch with a crisis counselor. The National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline can be reached by calling 211 or by texting 988.

It’s not easy to find a therapist or counselor in Vermont right now. Like many other industries, the unemployment rate is low and the workforce shortage is high. Luckily, there are many reputable online therapy options that allow you to talk to a counselor either by phone or video chat. Finding help for kids is tougher. School guidance counselors can offer some support, and maybe help bridge the gap until a better solution is found.

One thing we’re working on in the Legislature is a bill to approve interstate compacts for social workers. This would definitely alleviate some of the burden on current mental health workers in the state and would provide a workforce boost for the profession. Earlier this year, the Legislature passed, and the governor signed, an interstate counseling compact to help achieve this goal.

Nerd time: A compact is a statutory agreement between states that recognizes licenses for a profession that would let them work across state lines. In this case, counselors, and hopefully in the future it will also include social workers. These compacts and the licenses are managed by the state’s Office of Professional Regulation. They’re very strictly regulated — it’s not like you can wander into Vermont with a piece of paper that says, “I swear I was a counselor in Iowa” and get a license. There’s a process. 

The benefits of licensing compacts are numerous. Not only do they allow people to more easily practice in Vermont if they move, or want to move, here, but they allow easier telehealth visits, access for counselors who practice online from out of state and allow military spouses and partners to quickly pick up their careers if they are transferred.

I’m hopeful that all these smaller steps we take — the child care bill, the HOME Act, interstate compacts for mental health professionals and others — make life better for all of us in Vermont.

I urge you to take care of yourselves and your neighbors, and as always, please be in touch with me any time. I heard from one constituent this past week who was quite frustrated with a government issue, and I did have to tell him that unfortunately, I’ve learned that government can be effective and helpful and change-making, but I haven’t seen it move quickly yet. 

I’ll do my best on that front, but I don’t want to make any political promises I can’t keep. My number is 917-887-8231 and my email if you need anything at all.

Housekeeping items
The Green Mountain Care Board is looking for public input on the health care system in Vermont. I know we all have a lot to say and a lot of thoughts about this. If you’d like to attend the local Zoom meeting, there’s a community meeting on Friday, Nov. 3, 4-6 p.m. To register, there is also a call-in option: 888-475-4499; meeting ID: 99773972190; passcode: 750587. You can also share your thoughts with the board ahead of time.

I’ve been a Meals on Wheels volunteer for years through Age Well, which is a terrific and essential organization. They’re looking for volunteers, not only for Meals on Wheels but for other stuff, too.

Here’s what they need: “Age Well is seeking 100 new volunteers to provide regular social interaction and assistance to seniors in their homes. Help older Vermonters by volunteering in your community for any of the following: providing friendly visits, going grocery shopping, running errands, assisting with medical appointments, organizing, bill paying, providing respite to caregivers, delivering Meals on Wheels, doing minor home repairs and more.

“Time commitment is based on your availability — it can vary from one day a week to two days a month (Monday-Friday, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.) Volunteers tell us that they feel an incredible sense of satisfaction and reward seeing the impact they have on those they support. Contact our volunteer department at 802-662-5249 or for more information and to sign up.”

(Chea Waters Evans, a Democrat, represents Charlotte and Hinesburg in the Chittenden-5 House district.)