Middlebury, VT– Rep. Becca Balint made stops in Addison County on Thursday to highlight the “growing need” for mental health care in the wake of historic flooding in Vermont.

Balint, who met with mental health professionals, says communities often have the answers in a time of crisis.

“We had a mental health crisis before the pandemic,” she said. “We are continuing to have a mental health crisis, so I’ll be looking to work with members of congress to really make more robust systems of mental health support following emergencies like this.”

Rachel Lee, Executive Director of Counseling Services of Addison County, said the devastating floods put added pressure on a system already struggling to keep up with the demand for services.

“We are noticing an increase in the number of calls coming in for crisis services, especially with kids,” she said. “We are noticing an increase in the acuity of symptoms, and the level of distress, and this is all happening at the same time as we’re experiencing a really heavy staffing crisis.”

At CSAC, Balint touted how its programs follow a more holistic approach. She praised CSAC’s program ‘Interlude,” which takes an alternative approach to mental health care using a peer-to-peer method.

It’s an approach that Emily Hawes, Vermont Commissioner of Mental Health Commissioner, wants to replicate throughout the state.

“Those are moving folks away from the emergency room if they don’t need to be in an emergency room to a setting when they are experiencing increased crisis,” says Hawes.

Balint also noted she’s pushing to change the way mental health care is perceived, saying mental health services need to be encompassed in regular healthcare to boost access.