Thanks, Susie

Susie Merrick is one of those people you want to know. You want to have her in your life, in your community, in your school. She brings a hope, an optimism, a sincere regard that is palpable. It exudes from her, spreads to those around her, and inspires others to be their best selves. It certainly has that affect on me.

Among many of the activities within Susie’s ‘mission,’ she is coordinating a group of community members and leaders to take a serious and intentional look at the risks and concerns of teen suicide in South Burlington. She’s convened a work group to consider, and plan, and prevent. This group has met a few times with great ideas and great inspiration.

And then we were all touched by the tragedies of last week in our greater Vermont community.

And a reminder of the similar tragedies that we have experienced in the recent and distant past.

There are some things we can predict, and some things we can prevent. There’s no ‘magic wand’ in this work, no tell-all instruction manuals, and hindsight always offers 20-20 vision. If we could only turn clocks back… If I never had to read the word “unexpectedly” again…

My heart goes out most to these families, and to all of those affected and impacted by these tragedies. And it re-instills in me the vigor and passion to move beyond the politics and catch phrases and to truly ‘leave no child behind.’ Let us see what we are missing, let us take care of one another.

But it is not simply an agency, or organization, or school, or state plan, or federal initiative that solves problems and helps communities to heal and grow. It is people like Susie Merrick – who bring their vision and their brilliance with these goals in mind. And when she offers the invitation, others can’t help but to join in.

Among her many activities, Susie also writes for South Burlington’s community newspaper (The Other Paper: Recently she took to writing an article about our work at Centerpoint as we hit a milestone anniversary, published in last week’s issue. Thanks Susie for capturing what we say, what we do, and who we are. I’ve included Susie’s article here:

Carrying Hope: Centerpoint Adolescent Treatment Services Celebrates 15 Years
Susie Merrick, The Other Paper Correspondent

Centerpoint Adolescent Treatment Services in South Burlington celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, and no one is more grateful for the longevity of the organization than its director, Mitch Barron.

“Centerpoint is an organization that provides a range of mental health, education, and substance abuse services for, teens, young adults and families,” explained Mr. Barron. “Through all of our programming and specialty services, we are essentially here to help figure out what is going on, what could be improved, and how we can help.”

Centerpoint, a partnership between HowardCenter, NFI Vermont, and Matrix Health Systems, provides a “whole host of services,” Mr. Barron continued. “At any given moment, our waiting room could have an adolescent mom with an infant, a college student working through the struggles of transitioning to adulthood, and a grandmother who is the primary caregiver for her teenage grandkids…and we are well placed to meet the needs of that teen parent and her baby, the student, and the grandmother. Centerpoint serves more than 700 kids and family members over the course of the year: 350 may come through our doors, but we’ll see just as many in schools, on college campuses, in medical practices, and in community settings. By providing our services in these ‘host sites,’ we are hoping to remove some of those obstacles that people experience when they are trying to access help in their times of need.”

Centerpoint’s programming includes the Centerpoint School, a middle and high school serving 37 students at any given time (and approximately 60 over the course of a school year), with campuses in both South Burlington and Winooski. “While students receive the full scope of educational and academic services at Centerpoint School, most of our students are referred to us based on their social, emotional, and mental health struggles,” Mr. Barron noted.

Centerpoint also provides a full set of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, which include preventative, early intervention, counseling, and recovery support offered at Centerpoint’s clinic sites and in various community locations.

“Centerpoint’s mission speaks to our beliefs regarding those that we serve, as well as the qualities that our staff bring to the work,” explained Mr. Barron. “Specifically, this involves approaching our work and supporting our clients with skill, dedication, creativity, and flexibility. Over the years, this vision and mission have allowed us to move from being a small program that says ‘This is what we do and how we do it’ to a large organization that is able to say ‘Who are you, and how can we help?’”

It is this commitment to honoring each individual and family that has resulted in success, and yet Centerpoint staff are clear on how real success is achieved: “Not one of our clients experiences success solely because of our work at Centerpoint,” clarifies Mr. Barron. “True growth and success comes from the collaborative partnership between our staff at Centerpoint, our clients, their families, and the others supports in their communities.”


Mr. Barron credits his staff and the inspiration that comes from those that Centerpoint serves as being direct reasons for the agency’s longevity and his own ability to remain in this demanding work for so long: “Every day, I get to see great staff doing great work with great kids and great families. And that’s gas in the tank. When we learn about the complexities and tragedies of people’s experiences, the daily struggles that they present should not be a surprise to anyone. What’s amazing to me is the resiliency of our families and kids. You see the hard work, the changes they make, the incredible outcomes, and the smiles and appreciations at the end of it. Amazingly, we get to see some version of that that every day.”

At Centerpoint, concluded Mr. Barron, “a big part of our job is carrying the hope and optimism for those who have lost it, or maybe never had it. We need to carry that hope for them until they can carry it for themselves.”

The needs of families and communities have been no greater than they are today. And it takes all of us, no matter what our role, position, or standing, to make our communities the healthiest and most supportive that they can be. Thanks Susie, and thanks to all of you for what you do to support our young people and their families.


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