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Range of Services

Child, adolescent, and family mental health services provide support and treatment for those experiencing emotional or psychological distress or want support adjusting to life circumstances.  Mental health services may include prevention, assessment, intervention, and crisis response.  A description of many of the services provided at diverse locations throughout Chittenden County and Vermont is provided below.

Assessment/Evaluation Mental health assessment, clinical assessment, and evaluation are all terms that describe the process through which mental health professionals make determinations about an individual’s mental health.  During assessment and evaluation, professionals listen to parent and child reports, make first-hand observations, and assess clinical symptoms.   Specialized assessments may also be used to evaluate child or adolescent mental health.  These may include:
Mental Status Examination
Psychiatric Evaluations
Developmental Evaluations
Psycho-educational Evaluations
Psycho-sexual Evaluations
Neuro-psychological Evaluations
Substance Abuse Assessment
Trauma Assessment
Crisis Assessment
Threat Assessment (often called Risk Assessment)
Inquire directly with your child’s mental health or medical provider about available assessments.   If you are planning on using private insurance to pay for evaluation, inquire directly with your insurance company to determine if they have preferred providers. For mental health concerns impacting learning, contact your school’s counselor to find out about eligibility for evaluation through the school.
Crisis Services First Call for Chittenden County at Howard Center is Chittenden County’s designated child, adult and family crisis program.  First Call is staffed by trained mental health professionals who provide free crisis management assistance over the phone or in person 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. Call First Call at 802-488-7777.  Anyone in Chittenden County may call First Call if they feel a child, family or adult is experiencing a crisis.
Early Childhood Services (for children ages birth to 6) Children ages birth to six years who are experiencing developmental delays or who are at high risk for such a delay can access services through the Children’s Integrated Services (CIS).   Children’s Integrated Services is the name for Vermont’s new approach to providing coordinated child development and family support services formerly provided by three separate programs: Healthy Babies, Kids, and Families; Children’s Upstream (CUPS) and Family Infant Toddler.  Additionally, eligible children ages 3-5 with special needs may access services through their local school system through the EEE (Essential Early Education), EEI (Early Education Initiative) program or a range of other early education initiatives. Parents or child serving professionals may make referrals to CIS.  In Chittenden County, call 860-4426, or call 2-1-1 and tell them you are calling about Children’s Integrated Services.  The 2-1-1 specialist will connect you with your local CIS Team Coordinator. Inquiries about EEE, EEI, and other early education initiatives can be directed to your local school or school district.
Resources for Families with Young Children – Vermont
Enhanced Family Treatment Enhanced Family Treatment allows a child or youth with intensive needs to live within his/her or another family or small group setting and attend public school while utilizing community based servcies to address their mental healthcare needs.  Enhanced Family Treatment may involve therapeutic foster care, extensive respite services, small group home settings, and intensive family wrap around services.  Enhanced Family Treatment promotes permanency planning for children and youth (i.e. family health and/or reunification, transition to regular foster care, adoption, or independent living.) Eligibility determination for enhanced family treatment and out of home services are determined by an Act 264 process.  To be eligible for these services, children and youth must meet the criteria for Out-of-Home Placements. For more information, call First Call at 802 488-7777
Click here for an Act 264 Users Guide for more details about the process for accessing residential services.
Hospital Diversion Program (also known as E-Beds or Crisis Stabilization) Emergency or hospital diversion programs help divert youth from in-patient hospitalization by providing stabilization and assessment in a small, specialized treatment setting.  Emergency/Hospital Diversion programs have 24 hour awake night staff, 24 hour psychiatric and in house crisis back up, and some have the ability to conduct other specialized testing as needed.  In Chittenden County, these services are provided by Howard Center  and by NFI-VT.  The typical length of stay for these services is one to ten days. For children with Medicaid, screening is conducted by First Call for Chittenden County – call 802-488-7777. Children with private insurance may be screened and referred by First Call or their doctor or mental healthcare provider.
In-Patient Hospitalization In-patient hospitalization may be required for children and youth with a mental illness who require 24-hour medical monitoring, have complex and uncontrollable behaviors that may cause harm to themselves or others, cannot be stabilized in a smaller or more individualized setting, and/or who meet the criteria for an emergency examination (the first step toward an involuntary psychiatric admission.) The only hospital inpatient setting for youth in Vermont is the Brattleboro Retreat.  However, if necessary, hospitals in other states may be utilized. For children with Medicaid , screening is conducted by First Call for Chittenden County – call 802-488-7777.Children with private insurance may be screened and referred by First Call or their doctor or mental healthcare provider.All involuntary hospitalizations must be initiated by First Call – call 802 488-7777
Intensive In-Home Family Treatment A variety of in-home intensive services are offered in Chittenden County to families of children and adolescents with significant mental health care concerns.  The goal of this array of services, which may include case management, family skill building, respite care, and wrap around services, is to optimize the functioning and well-being of children with intensive needs and their families and to help prevent children from out of home placements.  Intensive in-home family treatment in Chittenden County is provided through Howard Center and NFI-VT. For Howard Center services, call 802 488-7777For NFI-VT, call 802 658-0040
Medication Services For many people diagnosed with mental illness, medications are part of the stabilization and recovery process.  When medications are indicated, medication management is typically one component of a larger treatment plan.  Medication management may include evaluating the need for and prescribing medicine, and monitoring medication effectiveness and results.  Medications may be prescribed by a medical doctor, psychiatrist, or nurse practitioner. Contact the child’s mental health therapist, medical provider or psychiatrist directly to inquire about medication services. If you are planning on using private insurance to pay for medication services, inquire directly with your insurance company to determine if they have preferred providers.
Mentoring A mentor is an adult who, along with parents and guardians, provides young people with support, counsel, friendship, reinforcement and positive role modeling.  Mentoring supports Chittenden County youth who could benefit from additional 1:1 adult relationships due to life stressors.  Mentors are carefully matched and then meet regularly with their mentees. Inquire directly with a mentoring program about eligibiliy for and availability of mentors or call your school counselor or 2-1-1 for more information.
Mental Health Therapy/ Psychotherapy Mental health therapy, also sometimes referred to as psychotherapy, can take the form of individual, group, couples, or family counseling sessions at a mental health clinic, doctor’s office, private therapy office, a child’s home, and/or some of Chittenden County’s schools. Click here to learn more about mental health therapy. Appointments are made directly with mental health providers or agencies.  Inquire with your school counselor or pediatrician, call 2-1-1,  or click here for a list of local resources.  If you are planning on using private insurance to pay for therapy, inquire directly with your insurance company to determine if they have preferred providers.
Peer Support & Advocacy Peer support and advocacy services help families learn how to negotiate the mental healthcare system.  These services inform families and individuals about their rights and responsibilities regarding mental healthcare, educate them about available resources, and offer opportunities for caregivers to connect with each other. Vermont Family Network - 1-800-800-4005Vermont Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health 1-800-639-6071
Prevention & Health Promotion Mental health prevention and promotion activities focus on healthy lifestyles and healthy communities for all children and families.  They occur in many settings throughout Chittenden County (doctor offices, schools, community centers, etc.) and may include activities such as school based violence prevention programs, community based early childhood playgroups, and parent education training classes. Inquire directly with your local school and community organizations about available prevention activities.
 Residential Services Residential treatment provides 24-hour awake night staffing, in house crisis back-up, and an array of psychological assessment and treatment services for youth with severe emotional and behavioral issues.  Residential services include short term residential assessments to develop an appropriate understanding of the child’s needs and treatment plan, and long term residential placements which address psychiatric and/or multiple mental health needs when other less intensive services have not been sufficient.  In Chittenden County, child and adolescent residential treatment is provided through Howard Center  and Northeastern Family Institute.  Children and adolescents with need for residential care may also access residential services in other parts of the state if that best meets their treatment needs. In Chittenden County, eligibility determination for Residential Care is initiated through an Act 264 meeting.  For more information, call First Call at 802 488-7777.   Click here for an Act 264 Users Guide for more details about the process for accessing residential services.
Respite Care Respite Services offer parents or guardians a much needed break when a child in their care is experiencing severe emotional and/or behavioral difficulties.  Respite care may be provided in the home or in a variety of community settings, for part of a day or, in some agencies, over night or for several days.  Respite care can also be provided in a variety of out-of-home settings or by simply having a worker take a child on an outing for several hours. Respite services are typically provided as part of a coordinated service plan or for children and families with multi-faceted treatment plans addressing intensive mental healthcare needs. Call your mental health service provider directly to find out if they provide respite services. When respite care needs are extensive and part of an Enhanced Family Treatment Plan, eligibility determination is initiated with Howard Center (call First Call at 488-7777) or NFI-VT,  (802 658-0040).
School Based Services (for children and youth in grades K-12) A school’s Educational Support System (ESS) encompasses a wide continuum of prevention activities, supports, and services for children and adolescents who are having difficulty in school, including for those struggles that are due to mental health and/or substance abuse concerns.   Among many others, ESS services may include participation in an afterschool homework club, meetings with a school counselor, a student assistance program counselor (SAP), school based social worker or school based therapist, 1:1 behavioral support, tutoring, or special education services. Inquire with your school’s counselor about available school based services, eligility requirements, and how to access these services.
Specialized Alternative Schools/Day Treatment Day treatment for youth in Chittenden County is provided by specialized alternative therapeutic schools where specially trained teaching staff understand how mental health problems manifest in youth and how to intervene in a therapeutic way.  These schools provide youth access to mental health clinicians and individual and group counseling programs.  In addition, mental health clinicians in these schools provide parenting support, resource allocation, and treatment planning.  Specialized Alternative Schools in Chittenden County include: Centerpoint School, Baird School, and Jean Garvin School. Referrals to specialized alternative day schools typically come directly from the child or adolescent’s local school.  For more information, call your child’s school directly.
Transition Age Youth Services (for youth ages 16-21) “Youth in Transition” (YIT) refers to any young adult who is age 16-21, in the years of transition from childhood to adulthood. In Chittenden County, the YIT Project is a collaboration between Spectrum Youth & Family Services and Howard Center.   For those eligible youth, YIT supports may include help with things like finding and keeping a job, accessing resources, applying to college, getting matched with a mentor, addressing substance abuse issues, applying for insurance, etc. For information about accessing short term assistance, contact a Young Adult Navigator at 802-864-7423 (ext. 428 or 429)For information about accessing long-term assistance, contact a YIT/JOBS Program Case Manager at 802-324-4170 or 802-324-1160.For general information about YIT programs and services, call a Chittenden county YIT worker at Spectrum Youth and Family Services at 864-7423 or visit the Youth in Transition Grant Website.
Coordination of Services (Sometimes referred to as Act 264) Some children with complex emotional or mental health needs require services that involve multiple systems.  In 1988, Act 264 was created requiring state human service agencies and public education systems to collaborate in making coordinated service plans for eligible children to avoid fragmentation or duplication of services. A case manager from DCF Family Services (for children in custody of the state), Education (for children whose primary concerns are educational), or Mental Health (for all other children who meet the Act 264 criteria for Severe Emotional Disturbance (SED)) takes the lead in coordinating the Local Interagency Team meetings.  Parents of eligible children may request a coordinated service plan by contacting:

  • Their local school
  • DCF Family Services (if they are involved through the custody of the child)
  • First Call at Howard Center (488-7777)
  • Other agencies within or in partnership with the Agency of Human Services.


Click here for an Act 264 Users Guide for more details about the process for accessing residential services.