What We’re Doing


As of 9/1/23, Centerpoint Adolescent Treatment Services, including Centerpoint School and Centerpoint Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, is closed.
For more information, please click the Centerpoint logo above.

The information below, and throughout this website,
is for archival purposes only.


June 2023

For our Winooski friends…
a message from Khadija and Abdoul…

More about The Unheard Stories Project? Lowry@CenterpointServices.org

And a learning and service opportunity for our UVM students in recovery…

More about Recovery Mentorship? MelissaH@CenterpointServices.org


June 2022

Rally and Centerpoint’s Recovery Services present…

And… coming soon from the Centerpoint Creative Arts Collective!

To  learn more about our integrated Mental Health and Substance Use Recovery services, including our Group Services, contact SAMH Access and Assessment Clinician Amy Johnson, MSW at 802-488-7717 or AmyJ@CenterpointServices.org.

April 2022

March 2021

More amazing new groups for outpatient, intensive outpatient, and recovery support, including…


December 2021

September 2021

August 2021

May 2021

Looking for teen actors, singers,
dancers, musicians !!!

To audition or learn more about the the Listen Up Project, click on the images above. Like to learn more about the many other services and supports available through Centerpoint’s Creative Arts Collective? Be in touch with Lowry@CenterpointServices.org

March 2021

Through our Community Health Initiatives,  Centerpoint’s SAMH team provides comprehensive mental health, substance abuse, social, and emotional support services for gender-diverse youth, families, and communities. Our services are strength-baseddevelopmentally matched, and family-focused.  We know that each family is unique and we take the time to learn about each family member’s needs, perspectives, and intersecting identities. At Centerpoint, we believe that gender identity is a normal and healthy part of human experience. Our counseling is trauma-informed and aims to help young people navigate their world by validating their experiences, building self-esteem and resiliency, and increasing family connections.

Like to learn more?  Reach out to Olivia Sanders, LCMHC LADC at 488-7718 or OliviaS@CenterpointServices.org

January 2021 

The Hill We Climb

January 20, 2021.  Historic in many ways. Momentous. Firsts, reflecting and representing. A point in time, on a long path – behind and in front. And through all the meaning and commitment demonstrated through the day, for many of us HOPE felt most hopeful in the brilliance and vision of Amanda Gorman – her power and honesty and presence with her freshly penned inaugural poem “The Hill We Climb.”

No more words here, other than her own, except to say thank you to Amanda, and to all of the resilient, brilliant young people as they travel the path ahead – and to their parents and families and caregivers and communities who support this resilience and brilliance to shine as it does from this Poet, behind the Presidential seal, in this most important time.

The full text of “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman

When day comes, we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade?The loss we carry. A sea we must wade.
We braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.

And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

And, yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true.
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
And this effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.

This is the era of just redemption.
We feared at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour.
But within it we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

while once we asked, how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe, now we assert, how could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation, become the future.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain.
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
Every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the West.
We will rise from the windswept Northeast where our forefathers first realized revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the Midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked South.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
And every known nook of our nation and every corner called our country, our people diverse and beautiful, will emerge battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade of flame and unafraid.
The new dawn balloons as we free it.
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Her words, in her voice, in that moment: click here for video

June 2020

At Centerpoint, we are committed to recognizing and promoting the strengths and abilities of those we serve – providing platforms to amplify their voices – carrying a true regard for the capacity of young people and families to learn and grow. And we do this with awareness and understanding of the challenges that many face every day in their lives and in their communities. We strive to hear, to see, to respect, to learn. To bear witness for the traumas, and insults, and aggressions.

But this is not enough – and we will do more.

The institutional and systemic racism in our communities and in our country has long targeted Black families. We are hurting, heartbroken, and angered by the horrific killing of George Floyd at the hands of police brutality. George Floyd’s murder. Breonna Taylor’s murder. Ahmaud Arbery’s murder. Nina Pop’s murder. Tony McDade’s murder. Black lives lost, all of whom mattered, as a direct result of racist brutality. These people and so many more – over recent weeks, across generations, for centuries.

These tragedies are just the most recent demonstration of the racist oppression built into our institutions – of housing, economics, and employment; education, health, and nutrition; and, most certainly, of policing and of our criminal justice system. Built into our systems, and built against Black People, Brown People, Indigenous People, and all People of Color.

Our mission at Centerpoint draws from the dedication, skills, and resources that our staff and organization offer to those we serve. We are working to dedicate these same skills and resources to issues of equity, human rights, bias, and the injustices of institutionalized racism. Not simply in what we say, but in what we do. We recognize that this is our work, this is hard work, this is discomforting work, and this is the responsibility that comes with privilege.

We invite you to learn more of our plans for action, to share your own, and to partner with us. We expect to make mistakes, though these will not keep us from acting. We expect to disagree, though this will not keep us from seeing, hearing, and respecting.  We expect that some changes may seem small, and recognize that small changes often have great impacts.  With self-reflection, humility, and grace. Within our organization, throughout our communities, and in our service.  And always carrying hope – the hope that we see from those we serve, and that we offer back when it may be so hard to see.

The greatest tragedies compel us to act.  We are committed.  Join us

April 2020

Centerpoint’s Parenting, Caregiver, and Family Services include innovative supports for families – and are now offering:

March 2020

An unusual time for so many of us –

with added stressors and concerns, unanswered questions, increased fears and anxieties, along with new possibilities – and here at Centerpoint, we remain fully available for you:

 * While our Centerpoint School buildings are closed for on-site academic and educational programming, Centerpoint’s full array of counseling, support, assessment, and educational services remain fully available – and we will be providing them in new and creative ways. And, new admissions are always welcome!

We now have the availability to provide our services through a few different ‘tech’ platforms –  including ZOOM or via telephone.  This approach allows for those who prefer or require greater physical isolation to remain socially and emotionally connected.

In-person services – incorporating the most up-to-date public health guided practices, such as greater physical distancing – currently remain available.  These may be provided in the community, within open-air settings, and as a health care provider, we continue to offer essential mental health care services within our clinic sites (with these same public-health guided practices).

An unusual and unique time, indeed – and we are here for you!

Like to learn more? Want to confirm – or adjust – your scheduled services? Want to schedule a new admission or a first appointment? Call 488-7711 or  email Admissions@CenterpointServices.org.

January 2020

At Centerpoint, we are seeing more young people and families facing the death of a loved one.  We provide many services for those who are grieving a loss, and we now offer…


August 2019

With the leadership and vision of Bess O’Brien and Kingdom County Productions, Centerpoint is excited to be co-producing the Listen Up Project, a statewide youth created, youth written musical about the challenges and joys, the risk and resilience of being a young person in Vermont in 2019.  As a youth development and health promotion project, the Listen Up Project will be connecting with more than 1000 teens across Vermont, identifying interests and needs, providing support, creating connections and building community.  As theater for social change, the Listen Up Project helps to create a platform for young people to amplify their voices and help to create the world in which they would like to live – all through the power of performance and theater.  Like to get involved? Like to learn more? Check out the Listen Up website or click here: ListenUp@CenterpointServices.org.

Listen Up press conference at the Vermont State House on February 12, 2019, with comments from Governor Phil Scott, Attorney General TJ Donovan, Health Department Commissioner Mark Levine, MD, Blue Cross Blue Shield President Don George, and some amazing perspectives from Voices Project Alumna Annalise Shelmandine and BHS student Finn.

We are so appreciative for the major sponsorship from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont and the Vermont Department of Health in their support of the Listen Up project.  We would also like to thank the University of Vermont Medical Center and the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation for their support.  Like to donate to the listen Up project? Click here

July 2018

Centerpoint’s parenting and caregiver support services have expanded to include…

June 2018

Come celebrate with our graduating students and their families!

November 2017

Just Breathe 3

And for the adults in their lives…

April 2017

Interested in innovation in education?
Join us for a day of learning, sharing, and creativity!

EdCamp 2017

      learn more and register here: EdCampVT.Weebly.com
Centerpoint School logo

February 2017

Centerpoint Drivers Education

December 2016

Centerpoint - Winooski Jiu Jitsu

October 2016

Bldg Resilient Campus

Centerpoint’s SAMH Clinician Beth Morelli, MA AAP RYT will be sharing her experience and expertise at UVM’s Mental Health Matters conference.  Click here to learn more or reach Beth at BethM@CenterpointServices.org.

July 2016

Centerpoint’s Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services is offering new groups…

for young people and for their care givers…

Centerpoint Just Breathe For Caregivers JPG

Centerpoint #beyourbestself JPG

To learn more about these or any of Centerpoint’s Substance Abuse & Mental Health group services, you can reach SAMH Director Danielle Jatlow at 488-7727 or by clicking here.

April 2016

BPHC You Parent logo

In conjunction with YouParent and the Winooski Schools, Centerpoint continues the Parent MeetUps for Winooski and Burlington families…

Parent MeetUp - Mothers & Daughters

March 2016


Edcamp Vermont @ Centerpoint is a unique opportunity for people across schools, programs, and educational settings to come together and learn from one another. We are excited to host our third Edcamp – always free and open to anyone interested in participating.  In past years Edcamp @ Centerpoint has included educators from public schools, alternative schools, therapeutic schools, colleges, universities, juvenile detention facilities, mental health settings, non-profit organizations and more.

The Edcamp model is a professional development unconference – used around the world to bring together educators to talk about what matters in school today (learn about the Edcamp story at edcamp.org).  Participants create the day’s schedule together in the morning, shaping the content and outcomes as a group. Anyone can present or facilitate a conversation. Sessions are driven by participant interest, passion, and curiosity, with a focus on peer-to-peer sharing.

Click here to learn more about EdCamp Vermont @ Centerpoint, or use our registration link to register now.

February 2016

Checkpoint diamond

Project Checkpoint is a “screening and brief intervention” program designed for students struggling with substance use or found in violation of the school’s substance use policy. Checkpoint is an option for students to fulfill school policy requirements while also:

  • Building skills
  • Learning new strategies
  • Becoming more informed
  • Increasing self-awareness of their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors

Through Checkpoint, students find their motivation, develop new skills, and increase their capacity to make healthier choices and engage in more successful and productive activities.

Checkpoint begins with a Screening Interview, followed by 3 weekly group sessions.  These Group Sessions address a variety of topics, including:

  • Decision Making & Problem Solving
  • Stress Reduction & Coping Skills
  • Power, Self-Control, Accountability, and Responsibility
  • Personal Assets Inventory, Resiliency Skills, and Healthy Supports
  • Planning for Set-Backs, Unhealthy Influence, and High-Risk Situations

Group sessions focus on practical application and rehearsal of new skills to increase the successful use of these skills in real-life situations. Checkpoint also includes take-home activities to further reinforce ‘real-life practice.’

How do we know if it’s working?     Designed as an intervention alternative to help prevent the need for greater consequence and sanction (such as school expulsion), Checkpoint also includes quarterly Administrative Review Hearings.  An initial hearing occurs upon completion of the group sessions, with three follow-up Checkpoint Hearings scheduled over the next 12 months.  These Hearings allow for students to share and demonstrate their progress, for the student and their team to identify and address any unmet needs, for a review of academic, performance, and attendance data, and to plan for any next steps.

And what comes next?     Through completion of Project Checkpoint, students receive a Screening Assessment with recommendations for any ongoing support that may be indicated.  For some, participation in Project Checkpoint is sufficient to address their needs.  Others receive ongoing assistance through school personnel, participation in co-curricular and youth development activities, or community support counseling.  Still others with greater need have access to the broad range of treatment services provided by Centerpoint and other mental health agencies.

Project Checkpoint is a collaboration between Centerpoint and the host schools. Through these partnerships, students have access to a broad array of supports to increase school success, to promote personal health & well-being, and to address life-interfering substance use or mental health concerns.

Like to learn more? Call SAMH Director Danielle Jatlow at 488-7727 or DanielleJ@CenterpointServices.org.


 January 2016

Do you have health insurance?

Vermont Health ConnectVermont Health Connect is a way to choose a health insurance plan that fits your needs and your situation.  Now is the right time to enroll – and support is available to help you find a health insurance plan that is best for you.

At Centerpoint, Amanda is our Certified Application Counselor – Amanda can provide support and assistance as you explore the different options available through  Vermont Health Connect, and as you enroll in your health insurance plan.

All of the plans offered through Vermont Health Connect offer the same quality benefits like doctor visits, mental health and substance abuse treatment, hospital stays, preventive care, and prescription coverage – so there’s no guesswork about what’s covered. Some of these plans are commercial (private) insurance plans; others are public plans (such as Medicaid).  Depending on how much you earn, you might qualify for a low-cost or free health plan. You may also get financial help to lower your monthly premium costs or per-visit co-pays.

Finding the right health plan can be a challenge, and, as a Certified Application Counselor, Amanda can help.  You can reach Amanda through our main number at Centerpoint – 802-488-7711.  You can also get support and lots of information directly from the Vermont Health Connect Team – on line by  – Clicking Here – or by calling toll-free at 1-855-899-9600.

Vermont Health Connect is administered by the Department of Vermont Health Access,
part of the State of Vermont’s Agency of Human Services.

September 2015

Save the Date Cpt@ 20 - edited

June 2015

Immediate Access Logo

Centerpoint’s Immediate Access programming has resulted in no waiting lists and offers access to services within 24-48 hours.  This is a remarkable improvement over common practices in specialty counseling and health care services, where delays and waiting lists often interfere with people getting help when they need help.

Through our Immediate Access initiative, teens and families experience responsiveness that has been described as “amazing,” “incredible,” “you people are the only ones…,” “I had no idea…”

An intake assessment within hours rather than weeks…
Counseling services within days rather than months…

Like to learn more, or to get support for you or your family?
Call SAMH Admissions Coordinator Michael Hunter at 488-7714, or be in touch at information@centerpointservices.org.

February 2015…

New support for our college students
and young adults…

Centerpoint Skill Set Group

Skill Set is specially designed for transition-aged youth, ages 18-24. We offer similar services for 13-17 year olds. Like to learn more? click here to share your request or let us know how we can help

October 2014…

Come join us…

Facetime fall 2014

 May 2014…

Parenting a middle-school student?
YouParent is here for  support.
Take a look…

Centerpoint CHCB - May 23

click the above image for easier reading and check out YouParent.info to learn more!

March 2014…

Are you supporting a young person
to experience their greatest
educational success?

EdCamp Centerpoint

Join us on April 23rd –  You’re invited!

The EdCamp movement is a new approach to professional development, cross training, and shared experience – bringing educators together to discuss and consider what matters most in education.

Built on principles of participatory learning,  hundreds of EdCamps across the US and the world strive to connect educators of all kinds – to talk about their interests, passions, programs, and ideas for creating the best educational opportunities for their students. Participants  work together sharing their own knowledge, perspective, experience, and expertise.

Like to learn more about EdCamp Centerpoint? Click here to see a short video, find the details of the day, and complete your free registration.  Like to learn more about Centerpoint School? Click here.  And… with additional questions, be in touch with Centerpoint School House Leader Ali Shevrin.

See you at EdCamp: Centerpoint!

November 2013…


a public-private partnership expanding and improving substance abuse
and related mental health treatment for Vermont’s teens, young adults,
and their families

The Vermont Youth Treatment Enhancement Program (VYTEP) is a new initiative building on existing resources and talents within Vermont’s youth and family service system.  With initial funding through a four-year grant from the Federal Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), VYTEP has a focus on state policy, on service system infrastructure improvements, and on expansion of counseling supports designed to meet the needs of Vermont’s youth,  young adults, and their families.

Policy and infrastructure improvements are being initiated to ensure better access to treatment and to improve coordination of the many systems that serve Vermont’s youth.   This ‘systems level’ initiative is facilitated through the Youth Service System Enhancement Council, co-chaired by AHS Director of Systems Integration Floyd Nease and VDH Deputy Commissioner (ADAP) Barbara Cimaglio.

More immediately, Vermont’s young people and families will see new services available to them in creative and responsive ways.  Within Chittenden County and Northwestern Vermont, Centerpoint Adolescent Treatment Services is expanding their current service array and will offer new models of treatment.  The Washington County Youth Service Bureau (WCYSB) is leading similar expansions within Central Vermont.

Responsive Services: What’s Needed, When It’s Needed, with Ease of Access

Through Centerpoint, VYTEP initiatives are focused on:

  • Improving access to care, with expanded community-based and co-located services
  • Reducing obstacles to care, with services that offer immediate response
  • Enhancing existing services and adding options for care, with new models of evidence-based practice
  • Strengthening current partnerships  and developing new collaborative relationships

Improving Quality of Life: Evidence-Based Practices with a Youth and Family-Centered Focus

During year one of the grant funded initiatives, VYTEP direct services are primarily focused on the adolescent/under 18 population.  These services include implementation of 2 evidence based practices:

  • An assessment methodology known as the Comprehensive Adolescent Severity Inventory (CASI): https://www.nttac.org/index.cfm?event=gsg.WebtoolSearchResultsInstrumentDetails&id=44
  • Seven Challenges®, a treatment model designed specifically to engage adolescents in decision making and commitment to change – and to support success in implementing the desired changes. Seven Challenges® concurrently helps young people address their drug problems and related life skill limitations, situational (peer, familial, environmental) challenges, and co-occurring mental health issues. http://sevenchallenges.com

Beginning in 2015, the VYTEP focus will expand to serve the Young Adult population (18-25 year olds).  This expansion will also include the implementation of an additional developmentally and stage matched evidence-based practice:

  • Seeking Safety® is a treatment model that addresses substance misuse, abuse, and addiction in the context of underlying trauma, with an outcome-oriented focus on health and well-being in all domains of a person’s life. http://www.seekingsafety.org/

Seeking Safety® is well established in other service areas and sectors within Vermont, which will allow for easier statewide adoption and integration.  Additionally, the Young Adult focus beginning in grant year 2 will be implemented in tandem with the VT Department of Health’s SBIRT project (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment).  This project has a similar specialty focus with the 18-25 year old population and will support a ‘seamless bridge’ from referral to treatment engagement.

Building on Existing Services, Growing in Community-Based Sites

Centerpoint currently provides a full array of counseling services and supports on-site at local schools, community centers, health centers, and youth service organizations within Chittenden and Franklin counties.  During year one of this program, community-based sites partnering with these expanded services include:

  • Winooski Middle-High School
  • Colchester High School
  • On-Top/Horizons Program (Burlington School District)
  • Burlington High School

In addition to these community sites, VYTEP services will be provided through the clinic-based individual, family, and group services offered by Centerpoint’s Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services  – and –
will be integrated within the special education and therapeutic programming at the Centerpoint School.

October 2013…

Centerpoint School Small Logo

Fall Celebration and the end of Quarter 1 –
See what’s happening at Centerpoint School!

What happening at CPS 1

And that’s just the beginning! To learn more, click on this Centerpoint School link 

June 2013…

Centerpoint School Transition 2013!

Transition Program Cover 2013

A wonderful, remarkable, heartwarming, awe-inspiring day of recognition, reflection, and celebration at this year’s Centerpoint School Transition Ceremony. Congratulations to our students, including 3 high school graduates, and a special thanks to the Centerpoint staff -who bring their skill, dedication, flexibility, and creativity each and every day to support and serve our students and their families!

Transition Ceremony 2013 Photo

As part of our Ceremony, a past graduate came and shared her experience of struggle, growth, change, and success – and of hope and optimism – to offer to our current students.  She agreed to having her speech shared here (click on her speech for a larger copy):

Transition 2013 - Hannah's Message


May 2013…

Centerpoint School’s Summer Services expand with an exciting variety of options to match many skills and interestsSummer at Centerpoint 2013

(click on the image for more information)

Building from Centerpoint School’s alternative education and day treatment programming, Summer at Centerpoint includes individualized and group-based activities, social skill development, therapeutic recreational activities, and academic skill building.  With this creative programming, Summer at Centerpoint continues to offer community-based services, family support, coordinated case management and specialized counseling and treatment.

For more information and to register for Centerpoint’s full summer program or for specific workshops, please contact Katie Decker at 802.488.7731,  katied@howardcenter.org.

April 2013…

School-Based Substance Abuse and Brief Intervention

Project Checkpoint-Colchester: an on-site, in-school service for Colchester High School students struggling with drug or alcohol issues.  Stay tuned for more information (check back here!) or learn more from Kate at KDearth@howardcenter.org.


March 2013…

Through the Burlington Partnership for a Healthy Community
and Centerpoint, YouParent brings skills, strategies,
and support to Burlington’s middle school parents.

YouParent Website Home PageYOU know your kids best. YOU are your child’s best resource for healthy decision making.  Help your kids to live life at it’s best, substance free.   We know it can be challenging to know the “right” thing to say, the “right” thing to do around alcohol and drug use.  Join with other Burlington Middle School parents to learn effective strategies, get support, and take care of YOU so that you can be your best for them.

YouParent Burlington includes:

  • Online support (emails, text messages, a Facebook page, chat groups)
  • In-person support (small group workshops and support groups)
  • Print materials (workbooks, direct mailings to your home with tips and ideas for practicing supportive parenting)

When Burlington parents come together through YouParent, we all keep our kids safe and supported. Click here to learn more.


March 2013…

Centerpoint School Students work with VHCB Americorps to improve information and access at Winooski Valley Parks


To learn more about Centerpoint School’s community connections and community partnerships, click here.  For more information about the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board Americorps projects, click here.

Centerpoint Summer Services are offering some special opportunities this year, including:

This week-long daytime program is designed for 12-17 year olds who struggle with the range of social, emotional, and mental health issues common to Centerpoint School’s services, but does not require enrollment in Centerpoint School’s Special Education programming.  In addition to physical and physiological recreation, Centerpoint Bike Tours are designed to support students in the areas of:
  • emotional self-regulation and behavioral self-control
  • decision-making and problem-solving
  • communication, collaboration, and teamwork skills
  • stress management and coping skills
If you have students, clients, or your own kids who would benefit from this opportunity, or for more information, please be in touch with Centerpoint School-Winooski Campus Director Jed Pauls at 363-7829 (or at jedp@howardcenter.org).


Transition 2012!

Would you like to see the growth that happens through the school year and experience the power of community at Centerpoint School?  Join us on June 14th for the Centerpoint School Transition Ceremony, including a high school graduation for 13 of our students!


 A Beautiful Boy and an Important Message…

David Sheff speaks to a sold-out crowd in Burlington.  Centerpoint Director Mitch Barron moderates a panel and facilitates a discussion of addiction in our communities.  Click here to see the television broadcast of this event.



Transition 2011!
Showing the growth at Centerpoint School

At a couple points over this year, I’ve written about our Trimester Fairs:

On a day-in day-out basis, our Centerpoint School students work hard on their middle and high school-level education and academics…and work just as hard on their social, emotional, health, and wellness skills: decision making and problem solving; self-regulating their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; peer relationships and social skills; effective communication; follow-through and task completion; stress reduction and coping strategies.

Deep into the work, progress may not always be easily recognized. As we are “walking up the trail,” it can be hard to remember where we started, to notice how far we’ve traveled, and to see how much closer we are to successful outcomes.

At Centerpoint, we realize that “losing sight” can be a common part of the growth process – and we understand how important it is to create benchmarks and celebrations to help us “pause on this trail and take in the view.” Through events like our Annual Centerpoint Film Festival, Transition Ceremonies, Winter Fest, Awesome Week, and our Trimester Fairs, we support students, families, and teams to reflect on how much has been accomplished. “Showing the Growth” allows our students to demonstrate progress and achievement to others – and – allows them to acknowledge their own success. We often hear things like “I can’t believe how much I’ve completed.” It becomes easier to believe when it’s right in front of your eyes.

Now at the end of the school year, I’d like to invite you to share in this growth and to acknowledge the incredible achievements of our students this year. For some, this leads to high school graduation. For others, this includes a transition to college classes, or enrollment in tech programs, or return to public school settings. And for still others who will be continuing in their education and programming at Centerpoint School, this includes a reflection of accomplishments and consideration of the opportunities that lay ahead.



Are you ready to deal?

You may have seen these posters around town…

At Centerpoint, we’ve found that more and more of our clients are accessing counseling services for themselves and by themselves. We continue to receive referrals from schools, courts, doctors, other counselors, and state agencies, but more often than ever… the other end of the phone line has a parent who doesn’t know where to turn or a young person who is asking for help for themselves.

In some ways this is great…
We know that those asking for help themselves may be more likely to take advantage of the help offered.

In other ways, perhaps not as great…
When we meet 17 year olds who seek us out because “life is out of control,” I think about how their lives may have been different if we met them at age 10 or 12 or 14.

We are often in the position of responding to the changing realities of those we serve, we work hard to be responsive, and we have become more and more available to support those seeking help for themselves…

… with the expansion of our Parent Support Group and Parent Support Services
… with our Community and Recovery Support Counseling services designed to help young people establish and maintain positive community connections essential to long-term success
… with our Community Room drop-in services that includes support in accessing resources for immediate and long-term assistance
and with Outreach (like the flyer above) that is intended to connect with that young person in need and perhaps on the cusp of asking for help.

If you know a young person (or parent) who’s ready for a change, have them give a call. We’re ready to help.




A Beautiful Night and Some Remarkable People

Centerpoint Adolescent Treatment Services held its Annual Employee Recognition and Celebration night to honor the hard work, commitment, and talent of all of our staff and to recognize individuals in five categories with special awards. First established as part of Centerpoint’s 10 Year Anniversary – and now in Centerpoint’s 15th year – this event has become a special time for staff to fully acknowledge one another and to be appreciated for all that they do.

With a fine meal and a stunning evening in Grand Isle, the event schedule began with the reading of a letter by Amber, a Centerpoint graduate who wanted to share her appreciation for the ways in which we helped and supported her, and ended with the reading of a letter by Bernie, a notable Senator who wanted to share his recognition of our students’ success.

This year there were 113 award nominations – staff taking the time to share (and write) their thoughts – in the categories of Peer Guidance & Leadership, Community Connections & Partnerships, Creativity & Resourcefulness, Professional Growth, and Core Values. 38 of our staff were nominated for an award by their peers. And from within these nominations, this year’s Centerpoint Staff Award Winners were identified:

School Social Worker Kathryn Braden was honored by her colleagues for Peer Guidance and Leadership: Within her consultative and direct service roles as a School Social Worker, Kathryn has recognized the importance of helping fellow staff to grow and succeed in their work. She has inspired her peers through modeling, encouragement, instruction, and guidance. With this support for her colleagues, Centerpoint students have directly and indirectly benefitted from Kathryn’s talents.

Teacher Cord Hull was honored by his colleagues for Community Connections and Partnerships: Cord fully utilizes collaborative relationships and recognizes the resource-rich communities in which we live. He assists his students in accessing these resources, and as a result, has helped them to expand their opportunities, enrich the quality of their lives, and enhance the quality of our work.

Teacher Ali Shevrin was honored by her colleagues for Professional Growth: Ali has shown dedication to her continued learning for both personal and professional development within her role as a teacher at Centerpoint School. She has demonstrated increased understanding, intention, awareness, and initiative in ways that have contributed to the highest quality of education for her students.

Counseling Teacher Kelly Ulrich was honored and recognized by her colleagues for Creativity and Resourcefulness: Kelly has shown her creativity, imagination, and resourcefulness in her work with students. She has demonstrated her ingenuity in turning these talents into engaging, inspired, and dynamic activities that have helped her students to recognize new talents and accomplishments.

Counseling Teacher Kevin Mailepors was honored by his colleagues for Core Values: Through his tenure at the Centerpoint School, Kevin has consistently demonstrated the highest level of integrity and commitment to his students, colleagues, and the organization as a whole. He promotes a positive work environment that supports staff in recognizing and building upon student strengths. He demonstrates sincere regard for those with whom and for whom we work. He consistently offers his skills, talent, creativity, and dedication as he empowers young people to improve their lives and as he supports staff to fulfill our mission each day.

Please join me in congratulating these award winners, and showing appreciation for all of the staff at Centerpoint who work so hard each day, yet can still demonstrate the skill, dedication, creativity, and flexibility that is key to our work on behalf of our clients, students, and families.


And a special shout out to the Centerpoint W.E.T.F.E.E.T runners who had a great showing at the VT Corporate Cup 5K benefit race last night in Montpelier:


 Where would we be…

Some of you may have seen this before, but a dear friend of mine just hit his milestone of 20 years sobriety, so I thought it worthy to send out again.
Thanks for reading, Mitch

So many of us work hard day in day out, provide much to those with little, helping those in need who may not yet recognize their needs, assuming appreciation when it is not yet ready to be offered, and hoping for positive change into the future when it may be less apparent in the moment.

Periodically, there’s the note from the colleague or the appreciation from the supervisor.
Sometimes, the letter from the community partner shows up.

Sometimes a note or card arrives in the mail from the parent who had the recognition, and the time, energy, and commitment…

Many of us save those voicemails of appreciation,
to listen to again on those days when we may question…

And then, sometimes, someone like Chip Chamberlain walks out of the grocery store to the same car that he’s driven for so many years and sees a scrap of paper under his windshield wiper…

“Did I get a parking ticket in a parking lot?”
“Did someone hit my car?”

And finds this note placed on his windshield:

As Chip shared the note with his colleagues, some spent a few minutes with “who could this be from?” and “who wrote this?”
I acknowledged that we’ll likely never know – it could be any of the thousands of people that Chip has welcomed, assisted, supported, guided, and nurtured over his 13 years at Centerpoint.

So, I as well, offer my appreciation to Chip, to all my Centerpoint staff, and to ALL of YOU who work tirelessly, day in day out, doing the seemingly (but not quite) impossible for those who may not yet be able to say thank you. Indeed, where would we be without Chip, and without all of you?



Culinary Arts with a Side of Civics

When I first sat down to write this…

I was watching a group of Centerpoint School students slicing, dicing, boiling, and garnishing up “Blue Mash with Roots and Rings” in preparation for the following day’s Junior Iron Chef VT competition. With the guidance of Centerpoint School Teacher and Iron Chef Coach Kevin Mailepors, other teachers, and our Guest Coach Anthony from the Bearded Frog restaurant (www.thebeardedfrog.com), these students were focused (like you see in a professional kitchen)…there was some pressure and tension (like you see in a professional kitchen)…they were smiling and laughing (I’m not really sure if this happens in a professional kitchen)…and they were coming to the culmination of 8 weeks of participation in their after-school “Iron Chef Club.”

When I next sat down to write this…

I had just spent a Saturday morning along with 20 other Centerpoint staff supporting and cheering on the Centerpoint School Food Fighters as they joined 55 other schools from throughout Vermont cooking up their entries and competing for 3 top awards and a variety of prizes. And… surprise to some, no surprise to others, the Food Fighters won “Most Creative Dish” – with whoops and hollers, an awards ceremony, and a very heartfelt student’s acceptance speech.

And then I sat down again to write this…

After hearing from Kevin that the Burlington Free Press wanted to interview our Culinary Arts students about the competition. The interview included meeting with a Free Press editor and a tour of the newsroom, and resulted in the following article (www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20110401/LIVING06/110331040/-1/FOOD/Students-show-iron-will-annual-Vt-cooking-contest-)

Students show iron will at annual Vt. cooking contest
Written by Clover Whitham, Free Press Staff Writer

It’s game day. After weeks of practice, each team member, decked out in purple and gold, is focused and ready for 90 minutes of fast-paced teamwork in a competition for prizes and glory before an audience of hundreds.

But Astroturf stadium this is not. The game plan includes chopping, dredging, frying, peeling, plating, roasting and washing. The closest thing to a ball being passed may be a hot, Vermont-grown potato. This is the fourth annual Jr. Iron Chef Vermont competition.

“What I love about it is it gives a little alternative school a chance to see other schools and compete with them. We’ll never have a football team, this is like our Super Bowl,” said Kevin Mailepors, Centerpoint School teacher and coach of the five-member high school team from South Burlington.
The goal of the 55 middle- and high-school teams from around the state was to create the best dish featuring local ingredients. Each dish was judged on taste, appearance, creativity, use of local ingredients and the adaptability to cafeteria menus, based on time, cost and nutrition.

The pressure was high, but Centerpoint eighth-grader Thressa took it in stride — even when the gas ran out on one of their stoves. Her team, the Food Fighters, won the “most creative dish” category with mashed potatoes topped with root vegetable chips and onion rings.

In the middle school and high school division, prizes were awarded in three categories: best in show; most creative dish; and greatest number and best use of local ingredients. The judges were farmers, food service directors, teachers, legislators and Vermont Commissioner of Education Armando Vilaseca. The competition was hosted by the Vermont Food Education Every Day (VT FEED) and the Burlington School Food Project at the Champlain Valley Exposition in Essex Junction.

Centerpoint 10th-grader Blake, a Jr. Iron Chef veteran, was in charge of roasting garlic and dredging vegetables for the Food Fighters. Thressa and Blake aren’t novices in the kitchen. They and their teammates have experience cooking lunch for their peers at Centerpoint, and both are fans of cooking shows on TV (Blake watches “Good Eats with Alton Brown,” Thressa favors “Cake Boss”). Both said they prefer baking, though, Blake likes bread and Thressa likes cookies.

They pleased the Jr. Iron Chef judges, but other adventures in the kitchen were less successful. Thressa said grilled cheese with jelly wasn’t award-winning.

“No one liked them,” she said. An attempt at ice cream failed to freeze properly, but the tasty mix served well as an impromptu milkshake.

Blake likes introducing his peers to food from other cultures, such as curries and from his Irish cookbook, potato pancakes. He said he plans to keep cooking after high school, but not professionally.

Wednesday, Thressa pulled shiny, black chef shoes from her backpack, part of a bevy of Jr. Iron Chef prizes that included a $500 scholarship to Paul Smith College. They’re tools she may use toward her goal of owning her own business, an animal shelter or a bakery.

Centerpoint joined South Burlington High School as the two winning Chittenden County teams.

And when I next came back to writing this…

the Vermont House of Representatives had invited the Jr Iron Chef competition winners to a day at the statehouse, to cook their award winning concoctions, observe the day’s activities from the plush seats on the dais, and receive a standing ovation with the reading of this House Concurrent Resolution:

So as I finish writing this…

I once again reflect on all that our students can achieve, on the creativity and commitment of our staff, and on how providing educational plans that truly build upon student strengths and interests can result in remarkable outcomes for all involved.

At Centerpoint, this strength-based student-centered approach has long been a part of our alternative education services. And we’re not alone – many public schools are using similar approaches. We’re particularly excited by the new collaboration between the Burlington and Winooski School districts, as supported by a Nellie Mae Education Foundation planning grant, to explore the development of student-centered plans for every student in their high schools. A grand effort indeed, however, at Centerpoint we see just how much can be accomplished with this student-centered approach to education.

To learn more about our models, methods, and strategies at the Centerpoint School, please be in touch with any or our Centerpoint School Directors:
Katie Decker – Centerpoint School, South Burlington Campus Director: 488-7731 (katied@howardcenter.org)
Jed Pauls – Centerpoint School, Winooski Campus Director: 363-7829 (jedp@howardcenter.org)
John Grimm – Centerpoint School, Clinical Director: 324-4507 (johng@howardcenter.org)
and I’d also encourage you to learn more about the exciting Winooski SD – Burlington SD initiative (http://bhs.bsdvt.org/supportingwebdocuments/press_release.pdf).

As always, please feel free to be in touch with me to share your thoughts or with other questions.
And thanks for reading,


You’ll laugh, you’ll learn, and you’ll walk away with something new… About a month ago, I sent out a message letting you know that Michael Nerney will be returning to our community for a day of training with professionals, providers, caregivers, and anyone working with children, teens, or families impacted by substance use and addiction (see below). I received a lot of replies and inquiries, including:

  • What is the focus of the day? morning – Current Trends in Substance Abuse; afternoon – The Impact of Chemical Dependency on the Family
  • Will this be different from his last presentation? yes – while there is some crossover, Michael’s last local training focused on adolescent brain development and it’s implications
  • Are CEUs available? yes – for social workers, psychologists, mental health counselors, and alcohol and drug counselors
  • What’s the cost? $79 regular rate, $49 student rate for the full day’s training
  • Are scholarships or group rates available? yes to both – the Burlington Partnership for a Healthy Community (www.burlingtonpartnership.org) is offering a limited number of full scholarships for this training. See that attached brochure for more info. And, group discounts are available – contact info also in the brochure.
  • Where is this Majestic 10 Theater? In Williston, VT near Taft’s Corners. A link to directions is included in the brochure.

So please take a look at the attached brochure – and feel free to share widely with others.
I hope to see you there – you won’t be disappointed.


A Unique Partnership

In one conversation last week… I talked with a probation officer about the developmental capacity of a corrections inmate, and referred this PO to a forensic psychiatrist at Matrix… I heard the comment “I didn’t realize that Centerpoint was a part of Howard”… I was asked the question “what’s the difference between Centerpoint and NFI.”

Indeed Centerpoint is a unique collaboration between Matrix Health Systems, HowardCenter, and NFI Vermont. In fact, it was more than 15 years ago that these three organizations came together, recognizing the intensive and growing needs of teens and families in our communities. This recognition also included the belief that these three agencies could contribute resources and support expertise to best meet these growing needs.

In these early days, we integrated some existing programs and grew new services. We figured out just what each player could bring to the collaboration and how to build on the strengths of each partner. We negotiated through some challenging organizational dynamics, all the while working to provide the best possible services to our clients and their families. It was not always easy, and at one point or another, each of the partners (myself included) asked the question of whether the challenges of partnership and collaboration were worth the work that it took to achieve success. As with all developing programs and organizations, the “forming” looked easy compared to the “storming” that followed.

So was it worth it?

15 years later, Centerpoint has become a strong, stable, and growing organization. Last year we served more than seven times the number of students, clients, and families compared to that first year. Our services have expanded in scope, enhanced in quality, and responded to changing demographics and changing needs. A 10 member staff has grown to become a talented and dedicated staffing of 61 (including consultants, contractors, and project staff, but not including therapy dogs).

And most importantly, our teens and families have benefited from the expertise, resources, and special connections that have developed through interagency collaboration. They have access to the broad range of programs and supports offered by these collaborative agencies, and with this, can be assured of the highest quality of care. Any day’s need may include crisis intervention or long-term residential treatment, family-based services, foster care or group care, psychological testing or psychiatric evaluation, respite or community mentoring. If the need exists, it’s likely that the umbrella of services within these agencies can help to meet that need.

They say that following the “forming” and “storming” comes the “norming” and “performing.” I can safely report that, 15 years after those initial efforts, Centerpoint and our collaborative agencies continue to provide the most creative, responsive, flexible, and effective services as we strive to meet the needs of our youth, their families, and our broader communities.

To learn more of the work of our collaborative agencies, please check out these sites:

HowardCenter: www.howardcenter.org
NFI Vermont (and North American Family Institute): www.nfivt.org and www.nafi.com
Matrix Health Systems (and Otter Creek Associates): www.ottercreekassociates.com

If you’d like to talk more about how our interagency collaboration works, or would like to talk more about the value of interagency collaboration for your work, please be in touch.


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: www.otherpapersbvt.com). 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.


But does it work?

Through all of our hard work at Centerpoint, we ask ourselves (and are often asked by others),
Are we achieving success?
Is our work effective?
Are we seeing the outcomes we would hope to see?

And with these questions, we collect data and review outcomes in many ways…
…beginning with each student’s particular educational goals, each client’s treatment objectives, and each family’s hopes and expectations.
With some of our funders and contractors, we evaluate data on “attendance” or “utilization” or “types of services provided.”
With our licensing and accrediting organizations, we collect data on “efficiency of services” and “access to services” and “consumer satisfaction.”
We evaluate health, and emotional stability, wellness, functional life skills, and happiness.

Considering what we are hoping to accomplish more broadly within our communities,
we collect the data on a range of ‘global’ issues**, such as:

  • high school graduation rates and dropout rates
  • employment status
  • housing status
  • transitions out of service or to more intensive services such as residential or hospital settings
  • involvement in corrections or juvenile justice
  • teen pregnancy and parenting
  • enrollment in post-secondary educational programming

And outcomes are demonstrated in other ways, as well…

The photo at the top of this page is of Adam and SAMH Senior Clinician Chip Chamberlain. I took this shot last week, when Adam dropped into our South Burlington office, on his way to catch a flight to his new base. Adam stopped by to say hi (and bye), reflect on his success, and express his appreciation as he prepared to leave for his posting with the Army Corps of Engineer.

He and his family first came to Centerpoint four years ago, struggling with a variety of challenges and complications –
and through some very hard work by all involved, with some trial and some error, he and his family have come out on the other side with health, beaming pride, solid confidence…and Adam leaves with goals, plans, the skills to make these plans a reality, and a successful future in the works.

SAMH Program Director Michael Hunter first started working with Robert at age 6. Through many services and years of support, Robert overcame the seemingly insurmountable. Like so many, he did not deserve the “hand he was dealt,” but the outcomes he has achieved demonstrate just how strong and healthy a young man he has become.

And most recently, with high school graduation and a very long bus ride to Northern Maine behind him, Robert is now settling into his Computer Technology program at Job Corps/Loring – and is positioning himself for a successful, healthy, self-sufficient, and self-sustaining life ahead…

“A Privilege, An Honor”
“We received a call from an adolescent crisis-bed program about a very troubled and traumatized young woman
who was having a difficult time…”

A young woman that you may have first read about in the “News and Views” section of our website is finishing up her counseling and services with us this week …and is writing papers, reading, doing research, and studying hard in her coursework (Human Services, no less) at Community College of Vermont. As we reflect on “the first chapters” of her story, we now look forward with her to the next chapters – in which she knows what she needs, knows how to get it, and knows how to take care of herself in the process.

And no one should be surprised when we see her as a college graduate and young professional providing support and assistance to others who may face challenges similar to her own. What could have been a very limited future is now a success story continuing to unfold.

Outcomes are demonstrated in many forms and we share our outcomes in a variety of ways.
And we are most glad that our students, clients, and families have the opportunity to see and experience these outcomes for themselves.

As always, thanks for reading, and please feel free to be in touch with your thoughts, questions, or needs.


*** And thanks to Robert and Adam who both consented to their photo being shared, and their story of success being acknowledged.

It’s time for practice…

Many talk therapies can help young people to think about things in new ways, understand their emotions, and increase their awareness.

In addition to seeing improvements in thoughts and feelings, much of our work at Centerpoint is designed to support changes in behaviors – replacing unhealthy behaviors with new and healthier choices. And as with most learned skills, we actually need to rehearse these new skills and behaviors if we expect them to work for us – we have to try them on for size… take them for a test drive – we have to practice them. Group work (counseling, treatment, therapy) is a demonstrated effective method for people to not only think new things and learn new skills, but to have the opportunity to rehearse these skills, adapt them for difficult situations, and gain the support and reinforcement to actually apply these skills within their lives.

I’ll sometimes say that if a teen can take the conversation from today’s talk-therapy session and translate it into behavior change at the dinner table tonight, in the classroom tomorrow, or with their friends this weekend, then we’re all set. If not, groups offer the opportunity to turn this talk into action with the support of counselors and peers.

Now about their peers…

Some say that “teens learn bad behaviors from other teens in groups.” Sometimes I’ll hear that a client “doesn’t do groups,” or perhaps that they “don’t have anything in common with other people in group.” And at times, each of these statements could be true. In fact, it is crucial to match group design, group content, group membership, and even counselor style to insure that the services being offered match the needs of the participants. And when these services are thoughtful and well-planned, when group membership is intentional, and when content and design are based on best-practices, the skillful use of peer influence and group dynamics allows change to occur more quickly and sets the stage for longer lasting progress.

At Centerpoint we develop specialty clinic-based or community-based groups based on emerging needs and trends, and we routinely offer the following groups through our Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services:

Changes – Brief and Extended Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Groups:
An earlier intervention for increasing motivation-for-change and teaching new skills of decision-making, problem-solving, and practical coping skills. Extended CBT group therapy offers opportunities for learning and rehearsing additional skills, such as identifying and self-regulating emotions, effective communication skills, and managing anxiety or depression.
Parent Support, Parent Skills Training, and Family Therapy Groups:
Providing skills, strategies, and support for parents and families struggling with a young person’s substance use. Group participants include parents with teens in treatment, parents whose teens have completed treatment but appreciate the continued support, and parents whose teens may need help but who themselves are not yet engaged in counseling.
Community Connections and Community Replacement Activities:
Offering therapeutic activities and opportunities to increase social skills and build positive peer relationships by developing and expanding recreational, vocational, and educational connections and activities in the community.
Anger Management and Emotional Regulation:
Helping teens to recognize the roots of their anger and destructive emotional outbursts, with a focus on prevention, self-regulation, healthy emotional expression, self-care, expanding the emotional vocabulary, and emotional safety planning.
Young Women’s Wellness/Young Men’s Wellness:
These gender specific groups mindfully address underlying emotional issues, while developing healthy skills and strategies for preventing distressing situations and coping with those life stressors that are unavoidable.
Relapse Prevention:
This group provides young people who are establishing abstinence with the skills to identify high-risk situations, strategies to avoid regression, and an introduction to natural and ongoing community supports.
Recovery Support:
An “all star” group for young people who have established abstinence, sobriety, and healthy thoughts & behaviors, and are developing motivation to maintain these healthy lifestyles.

Most of us live in groups (including our families), work in groups (with colleagues), school in groups (attending classes), and learn much of what we know through our interactions with others. With group counseling, we have the opportunity to embrace the power of these group connections, positively influence and guide these relationships, and practice these positive changes.

To learn more about our outpatient and intensive outpatient group therapy services at Centerpoint, please contact Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Program Director Michael Hunter at 488-7714 michaelh@howardcenter.org.
To learn more about the group counseling services and supports provided through our day treatment programming at the Centerpoint School, please contact Centerpoint School Clinical Director John Grimm at 324-4507 johng@howardcenter.org.
As always, please be in touch with additional questions, thoughts or needs.

If you found this information helpful, I’d ask that you forward this on to your contacts.
If you would prefer not to receive this, please let me know – mb

This time of year… Appreciations and Giving Thanks

When I talk to people about the work we do at Centerpoint (which happens a lot this time of year), I inevitably hear things like “that must be hard” and “how can you keep doing what you’re doing?” This is a fine question in these challenging times, but one with an easy answer.

Regardless of what is filling up my desk, my schedule, or my head, on any given day I have the opportunity to see dedicated, dynamic, creative, caring staff working hard with teens and families…and clients and students who are similarly dynamic, engaged, and ambitious as they work through difficult issues and strive to improve their lives.

My appreciation for my staff is deep. But most heartwarming is their recognition of one another, and their true regard for those we serve…

Centerpoint staff complete an annual three question survey, with confidential opportunities to rate their job satisfaction (from Completely Satisfied to Mostly Unsatisfied) along with an opportunity to make suggestions for job or program improvement (see attached).
A few years back, I added a fourth question:

What do you most appreciate about your work at Centerpoint?

And it is the response to this fourth question that has affected me the most…

“the people I work with, both staff and students”
“the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of our students”
“the amazing staff, support, and positive attitude within and throughout the organization”
“working with these kids and families, and working with an awesome, incredible team of professionals”
“the energy and helpfulness that all staff bring”
“working with the people I do and getting to work in such a flexible setting”
“the flexibility to make it what you love”
“the staff culture at Centerpoint”
“the people around me, the openness, the energy”
“the staff, the freedom, the positivity – it’s just awesome that this place exists!”
“how supportive friendly and helpful the staff are (and the best supervisors ever)”
“the people – there must be something special in the hiring process…”
“the fact that the mission statement is something that staff and leadership genuinely believe in and that there is thoughtful, dynamic, and relevant support to help staff improve and continue to grow”

… and they go on and on like this, piles of responses, year after year – demonstration of support for one another; recognition of the value and importance of this work; mutual regard and mutual appreciation for the possibilities in the lives of our clients and for the qualities of our team.

For those who wonder “how I can keep doing what I’m doing?” the answer is reflected in these responses. Surround yourself with colleagues who are motivated (and motivating), inspired (and inspiring), thoughtful (and thought provoking) – and hang on for the ride.

Happy Holidays to all of you, and thanks for reading.


Your first greeting at Centerpoint may include floppy ears and a wagging tail…

When new clients come to Centerpoint for their first appointment, they are often anxious and unsure. Our waiting room includes teens who are angry at their parents and parents who are frustrated with their teens. A young person may feel blamed or ashamed for coming to treatment.

And often, their first greetings include Kole ambling into the reception area:

…anxieties decrease with a friendly canine…the angry scowl softens with pats and paw shakes…parents and teens alike find common ground and share a smile when playing with the pup…

And certainly, Kole is only one of the “providers” at Centerpoint who begin with a warm and welcoming smile, offer respectful spaces and respectful interactions, and acknowledge the inherent risks and incredible strengths it takes to even consider making important life changes. In fact, the “corrective paths” that our clients are pursuing include many barriers to treatment success.

We work hard to remove obstacles that interfere with this success and hard work. Creating “welcoming, accessible” environments is just one of our approaches to insure a treatment experience that has the greatest likelihood of a successful outcome. Through our initiatives connected to NIATx, the Network for Treatment Improvement (www.niatx.org), we have revised many of our activities, procedures, and processes. We have adjusted how we schedule appointments and accept new clients. We have developed more immediate access for parent support. We have organized our services to insure that we are offering the “path of least resistance” and are avoiding any unintentional obstacles to the growth and change process for our clients.

Ken Minkoff, MD and Chris Cline, MD have developed a time-tested model and methods based on “Welcoming, Accessible, Integrated, Continuous, Comprehensive ” treatment systems of care. This model has guided us as we have grown our services over these many years. Their work has also provided a strong research and evidence foundation to help demonstrate that not only do these approaches look good and feel good, but they also contribute to treatment engagement, treatment retention, and some of the most successful outcomes for people struggling with complex challenges.
To learn more about their incredible work, check out www.kenminkoff.com and www.zialogic.org.

For many of our clients, their first appointment at Centerpoint may be ‘driven’ by schools, parents, the legal system, doctors, or service providers. They may be encouraged or pressured by others, and it is often not “our job” at Centerpoint to get teens and families to come in for their first meeting. It is, however, very much “our job” to get them to come back. Consistent with the research, we know that engagement and retention in treatment are key factors in treatment success. Creating welcoming and accessible services is just one of our strategies to support this success.

And if you’re on Centerpoint School’s Winooski Campus, keep your eyes out for newly-minted therapy dog Maya…

As always, please be in touch with additional questions, thoughts, or needs.

Just don’t make me angry…

The young people that we see at Centerpoint experience a broad range of emotions, from joy to fear to surprise and sadness, guilt and shame, anxiety and excitement, embarrassment and more…

Unfortunately, some of our clients are only able to identify and “express” one emotion: ANGER.

And it is often this anger and its expression that raises concern within families, schools, and communities. It is also this anger that has young people referred to Centerpoint’s Anger Management Group. Anger Management Group is a structured and guided group facilitated by one of our most talented clinicians and designed to help young people:

  • Recognize the many feelings and thoughts that contribute to their anger
  • Build the skills and strategies to avoid stressors, reduce stress, and cope with the difficult life situations that are unavoidable;
  • Expand their emotional “vocabulary” – gain greater awareness of the range of their emotional needs and find effective ways to get these needs met;
  • Express their anger and strong emotions in healthier and less damaging ways

While many of Centerpoint’s counseling groups have “rolling admissions” to allow for quick referral access, Anger Management Group is a “closed group” running for 8 sessions with the same participants continuing for the full series. This continuity allows for the application of a developmental, outcome-based curriculum. For some clients, Anger Management Group may be one part of a comprehensive Centerpoint plan of care – for others, this group may be a stand-alone service received from Centerpoint. This group also meets the requirements for certain school or court-ordered expectations.

By the end of this 8 week series, each participant has created, practiced, and applied their own personalized “Anger Management Plan.” And by the time participants complete this series, we see them experiencing some additional emotions:

delight… joy… courage… relief… pride… satisfaction… contentment… hope.

For more information about Centerpoint’s Anger Management groups, please contact Senior Clinician Chip Chamberlain, MS NCC, at 488-7716 (Francisc@howardcenter.org). Chip can speak to group content and design, successes, and series schedule.
To learn more about Centerpoint’s range of counseling services and supports, please contact Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Program Director Michael Hunter, LCMHC LADC at 488-7714 (Michaelh@howardcenter.org).
As always be in touch with additional thoughts or needs.

Burlington Mayor Bob Kiss and the Burlington Partnership for a Healthy Community proclaim Substance Abuse Prevention Red Ribbon Week


When I first joined Centerpoint, we were little more than a couple of programs providing intensive treatment services to a relatively small number of teens. Over the past 15 years, our counseling, treatment, educational, schooling, and support services have certainly expanded and enhanced. We provide many more services within our 3 sites and we offer a great deal of treatment and support in host-sites and community locations. Each year, we’re serving near 700 teens and families from throughout Northwestern Vermont and beyond.

Over these years, we have come to recognize that, in addition to helping our clients and families become healthier themselves, we also have the ability and responsibility to help our communities become healthier for teens and families. Through our prevention and early intervention efforts, we are helping to reduce risks for our teens and establish behavior patterns that resist those high-risks that remain. We assist kids and parents with healthy decision-making before poor decisions are made. With our school-based Student Assistance Counselors we are getting supports in place for young people as they “enter the rapids” of adolescence. Through our training and consultation, new and developing human services students and professionals gain a greater understanding of the risks and opportunities that exist within adolescence.

And…through our partnerships with Community Prevention Coalitions, we are helping to impact community norms and values regarding drug and alcohol use – providing specific strategies for increasing wellness in our schools and communities. Through the Burlington Partnership for a Healthy Community (www.burlingtonpartnership.org) and Chittenden South’s Connecting Youth (www.seewhy.info), we have been able to assist with resiliency and asset development in ways that will reduce the need for so many more to walk through the treatment doors of Centerpoint. Please click on these links to learn more about the great work being accomplished by the BPHC and CY.

At Centerpoint, we recognize Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery as three essential and complementary aspects of our work with teens, with families, and with the community. Please wear a red ribbon this week: celebrate and support the many efforts to keep our kids drug free, safe, and healthy.

Have you met Jenn?

Jenn is our Peer Recovery Coach at Centerpoint. She is a young person who has persevered and grown through her own struggles, and is “working her health” on the other side. As a Centerpoint Peer Recovery Coach, she is able to help other young people who are on the front end of their struggles. She has helped to engage young people for their first counseling session; she has helped young people new to recovery to make positive connections and access community supports; she has worked with young people to develop recovery plans and maintain their healthy choices and behaviors.

Peer Recovery Coaching is just one of Centerpoint’s “Resiliency and Recovery Oriented System of Care” initiatives. As with Federal and State RROSC initiatives, Centerpoint recognizes that young people and families need to address the issues that contribute to their mental health or substance use challenges – and –they need to develop the skills and supports to live in a world that will continue to present them with risks. These skills, strategies, and supports are key within all of Centerpoint’s treatment services, and Peer Recovery Coaching is able to add the perspectives and connections that can best come from a peer: a young person in recovery who can most immediately identify with the the teenage experience (and with whom our clients can easily identify).

Centerpoint’s Peer Recovery Coach – an essential element to our work with teens and families.

For more information about Centerpoint’s Peer Recovery Coaching or Centerpoint’s RROSC activities, please feel free to be in touch with me at the address below or via email.
To learn more about Centerpoint’s array of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, please contact SAMH Program Director Michael Hunter, LCMHC LADC at 488-7714 (Michaelh@howardcenter.org).

Now, have you met Kole?


Which parent said “I thought I was the only one…”

Many of the parents who walk through the door of Centerpoint say something like “I thought I was the only one…” In fact, most of the parents who were reluctant to show up for the first time to Centerpoint’s Parent Support Group are the same parents who are still in our parking lot 20 minutes after the group has ended, locked in conversation, getting support, learning, receiving encouragement, and making connections with other parents.

Centerpoint’s Parent Support Group is designed for parents with teens who are involved in counseling at Centerpoint…for parents whose teens have completed treatment, but who themselves want to remain involved for the ongoing support…and for parents who don’t know where to turn; who are struggling with their teen but don’t know what to do next. In addition to the support and encouragement, this group offers skills and strategies for parenting through difficult times, and participation can continue into Centerpoint’s Family Therapy Group. This ‘rolling admissions’ group includes parents who have been attending in an ongoing way, as well as parents who call with a need on one day and ‘drop in’ to the group on the next.

To learn more about Centerpoint’s weekly Parent Support Group or Family Therapy Group, please contact
Group Facilitator Kim Burgess, MS CADC at 488-7712 (Kimb@howardcenter.org).
To learn more about Centerpoint’s range of counseling services, please contact
Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Program Director Michael Hunter, LCMHC LADC at 488-7714 (Michaelh@howardcenter.org).


Parenting a middle-school student?
YouParent is here for  support.
Take a look…

Centerpoint CHCB - May 23

click the above image for easier reading and check out YouParent.info to learn more!

Comments are closed.