ABOUT THE INAUGURAL STAKEHOLDER MEETING 7.26.2019
The inaugural meeting of Healthy Communities VT was held on July 26th at Capital City Grange in Montpelier. The meeting was held to discuss and begin to organize solutions for families whose housing or health is at risk due to the presence of Bed Bug infestations and/or Hoarding conditions. The meeting was organized by the Field Service Directors of the Vermont Agency of Human Services and it was co-sponsored by the Vermont Community Action Partnership.
The meeting was organized because for the issues of hoarding syndrome and bed bugs there is currently miniscule funding and scant resources in Vermont to help the sufferers. These two issues have some things in common and the most important ones are that people can lose their housing and their health can suffer because of them. What little funding and resources that exist are available in just a few counties leaving the rest of the state with nothing. With no major sources of funding on the horizon we must focus on educating our communities with factual, peer reviewed, information that busts the myths, the fear, the secrecy, and the stigma that surround us. Fear, stigma, and the threat of denial of service prevent people from reporting the problems and coming forward to get help. In the case of bed bugs the lack of reporting allows infestations to spread quickly through a building and even further into our communities. Education achieves the biggest bang for the buck and that is the primary goal of our learning community.
Rick Castillo helped to organize the meeting and he also provided a brief presentation on empowering families to take control and stabilize their living spaces to help make them inhospitable to bed bugs. Dave O'Leary provided an overview of the prevalence of hoarding syndrome in Vermont and how local task forces such as the one in Chittenden County can educate their communities in understanding the issues and assist them in overcoming the secrecy and stigma that prevents people from getting help.
Afterwards the attendees broke out into regional groups to identify how the issues of bed bugs and hoarding are affecting their communities and to brainstorm ideas and resources that can help people. The links below open documents that are compendiums of the data that was collected during the meeting.
Data: To locate the data for your region navigate to the COMMUNITIES VT page and then click on your region.
By all accounts the meeting was deemed a success as 90 people attended from several diverse organizations including: community action programs, hospitals and healthcare, mental health, public housing authorities, tax credit housing providers, CVOEO Vermont Tenants, various other non-profit organizations, VT Dept. of Health, VT Div. of Fire Safety, VT Dept. of Disabilities Aging and Independent Living, and Vermont Legal Aid.
They came because they wanted to learn more about these problems facing families and to learn about the solutions being developed in a few Vermont counties. They came because they desired to help shape a regionally equitable system that fosters solutions for people experiencing hoarding and/or bed bug infestations. They came because they wanted to contribute to building a lasting support structure that each region of Vermont can draw upon to obtain pertinent information on what works to limit the spread of bed bugs and to help people experiencing hoarding in their communities.
You may be interested in reviewing the attendee evaluation survey results for the inaugural meeting on July 26th in Montpelier: Post-Event Feedback Survey
The meeting organizers committed to establishing a learning community to serve as the backbone of a statewide network to help achieve the goals of the attendees. The learning community is now launching with an email address, email@example.com, and a website, healthycommunitiesvt.org.