Planning for the Future of Mental Health Services and Wellness Promotion

22 August 2019

Thank you for your interest in Vermont’s mental health system of care and prevention!

Those of us at the Department of Mental Health are excited to have this opportunity to think about how to build a mental health system that serves all Vermonters when and where they need services, as well as supporting the health and well-being of all Vermonters. After all, as the World Health Organization says, “there is no health without mental health.”

Our goal is to design a plan that leads us to an integrated future that will serve Vermonter’s for generations to come.

The Legislative Charge:

Act 82 (2017)requires the Secretary of the Agency of Human Services (AHS) to “...submit a comprehensive evaluation of the overarching structure for the delivery of mental health services within a sustainable, holistic health care system in Vermont...”. A bulleted version of the charge appears below, but the entire language can be found by clicking on the link for the Act 200, Section 9 report.

 The Vermont Department of Mental Health committed to conducting a public listening tour in the Act 200 Section 9 report to the legislature in January of 2019 (Sec 2.2 Next Steps, pg. 3)

That is work we are inviting you to help us with. There is a link to a survey, below, that will guide you through the same questions we asked of the nearly 300 Vermonters who attended five listening sessions held across the state this past summer.   

We will collect responses to this survey until close of business on Monday, September 30th.  All responses collected during the five listening sessions and through this survey will be compiled and submitted to a “think tank” of experts that DMH is convening through an application process. The think tank will meet five times over the fall to develop the 10 year plan. In January of 2020, the Department of Mental Health will present the plan to the relevant legislative committees. In the spring of 2020, implementation work on the plan will begin.

Our Approach to Collecting Comments

For all of the listening sessions and in the online survey, the department is using the Appreciative Inquiry model to guide input. Appreciative Inquiry takes a “whole system” approach, in order to ensure we hear the voices of all Vermonters as we plan for the future.

Appreciative Inquiry focuses on leveraging our core strengths, rather than trying to overcome or minimize weaknesses. Rather than finding the root cause of a problem, Appreciative Inquiry works to find the root cause of success.

That doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge challenges or what hasn’t worked, but research on how to change practice shows us that the catalyst for change is “what would have made your experience better” or “what is it going to take for us to go from here (low) to here (high)?”

The Department of Mental Health is committed to building on the strengths in our system and creating the very best mental health services and prevention activities anywhere in the country.


Below is a little bit more about the Appreciative Inquiry model. For anyone who like to learn more, click here.


Define – What is the topic of inquiry? – It is important to define the overall focus of the inquiry (what the system wants more of). ACT 200 Sec 9, has helped us define our charge

Discover – Appreciating the best of ‘what is’ – A way of finding ‘what works’. It rediscovers and remembers the organization or community’s successes, strengths and periods of excellence.

Dream – Imagining ‘what could be’ – Imagining uses past achievements and successes to imagine new possibilities and envisage a preferred future. It allows people to identify their dreams for a community or organization; having discovered ‘what is best’. You have the chance to project it into their wishes, hopes and aspirations for the future

Design – Determining ‘what should be’ – Design is the work of the Think Tank, translating our ideas into a concrete plan. We call it bringing the ‘best of what is’ together with ‘what might be’, to create ‘what should be – the ideal’.

Deliver/Destiny – Creating ‘what will be’ – How the design is delivered and deployed, and how it’s embedded into groups, communities and organizations. Implementation plan, strategies and action


Survey Monkey to collect input for the Vermont mental health system of care 10 year planning process:

Contact Information

Department of Mental Health
Commissioner Emily Hawes
280 State Drive, NOB 2 North
Waterbury, VT 05671-2010
Phone: (802) 241-0090
Fax: (802) 241-0100

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