Focusing on high-risk individuals, families

Christine Ouellette, community substance use outreach manager for United Counseling Service, holds one of the Harm Reduction Bags that the organization is helping to distribute.

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BENNINGTON — National Recovery month, which marks its 31st year in 2020, is observed each September to help educate the public about substance-use treatments and mental health services that can help people live healthier and more rewarding lives. United Counseling Service offers individual, family and group substance-use treatment, working collaboratively with numerous community partners to inform, educate and treat anyone in Bennington County who may be affected by substance abuse.UCS is a member of the Bennington Opioid Response Team, a cross-sector public health and safety partnership that also includes Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, the Bennington Police and Fire departments and Rescue Squad, Turning Point Recovery Center, and SaVida Health. Funded by a community action grant, the group does outreach to reduce opioid and other substance use disorders and overdoses. The group envisions its actions will improve the lives of those afflicted by supporting them and their families directly while at the same time working to educate the broader community and reduce the stigma associated with addiction and substance use.

"I am proud to work with an amazing group of community partners to try and reach high risk populations," said Lori Vadakin, UCS director of Outpatient Mental Health and Substance Use Services. "By working with our partners, we have a better chance of reaching those who need us the most, which are not only those who need treatment, but family members who are also affected."

In addition to providing ongoing supports, UCS is collaborating with the Department of Health and the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse to deliver their Harm Reduction Bags. Along with a single dose of Narcan and fentanyl strips, Harm Reduction bags also include other helpful items and resources. Bags are available at UCS at 100 Ledge Hill Drive in Bennington or by calling UCS at 802-442-5491.

"In tandem with the distribution of the Harm Reduction Bags, we strive to engage family and friends of people with opioid or substance use disorder, to educate them on naloxone access and administration, the Good Samaritan Law, and harm reduction methods, and provide other supports as needed," comments Christine Ouellette, community substance use outreach manager. "We provide general support, grief counseling, and help individuals addressing their own treatment or recovery needs."

Although September is officially National Recovery Month, UCS Executive Director Lorna Mattern wants everyone to know, "We are here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week 365 days a year."

United Counseling Service provides outpatient counseling and addictions services, emergency mental health services, extensive rehabilitation services, home- and school-based services, employment services for people recovering from mental illness or with developmental disabilities, and Early Childhood Services. In response to the COVID 19 pandemic, UCS has developed a warm line, available to anyone living in Bennington County from Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit or call 802-442-5491.


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