2022 Online Annual Report

2022 Online Annual Report

A year of adaptation and ongoing partnerships to strengthen the communities we serve

A smiling young white woman in a striped tank top and a smiling Latino man in a fleece vest stand next to each other holding blue bags and paper coupons
Closeup of a smiling middle aged white woman with short blond hair, wearing hoop earrings, a light blue open-collared blouse, and navy jacket

Dear Friends,

It takes partnerships to build a stronger community and this past year has demonstrated that working together, we make great things happen. While we experienced staff shortages, COVID outbreaks and increased demand, we were able to provide quality services to those who needed us. We worked to set up new processes to help people when they need it, set up partnerships to help people where they need it, and created innovative programming that allowed us to change how we deliver services. 

I am so proud of the UCS team and what we accomplished together despite the challenges. We look forward to continuing our work with individuals, families, and community partners throughout Bennington County. I hope you will join us next year at our many events as we celebrate 65 years of service.

—Lorna Mattern, Executive Director

Closeup of a smiling middle aged white man with short-cropped light brown hair, wearing a navy suit, white shirt, and navy tie with small white polka-dots

Thank you to the community! 

Collaboration between UCS staff and its many community partners plays a pivotal role in allowing us to better serve the complex and increasing needs of our community.  This year, working with partners in healthcare, law enforcement, and other area organizations, UCS leadership and staff worked incredibly hard to develop new and innovative ways to serve the residents of Bennington County.  We are so proud of our staff and the relationships they build to bridge gaps and build a stronger community.—Robert W. Thompson, President of the Board of Directors

—Bob Thompson, President of the Board of Directors

Our Stories

A year of adaptation and ongoing partnerships with local businesses and organizations to strengthen the communities we serve.

Bridging the gap: Pairing mental health professionals with law enforcement

A smiling middle-aged white man in a gray polo shirt standing next to a smiling white man in a short-sleeved Vermont State Police uniform of beige shirt and brown slacks. To  their left is a large green wooden sign for the Vermont State Police Shaftsbury barracks)
Bill Elwell, a UCS Mental Health Crisis Specialist, and VSP Sergeant Todd Wilkins outside the Shaftsbury field office.

Recognizing a growing need, law enforcement organizations across the country are improving the way they operate by adding mental health experts to their teams—and Vermont is no exception. This year, UCS partnered with the Vermont State Police (VSP) and placed a clinician right inside the barracks in Shaftsbury. The benefits of having a mental health clinician embedded in law enforcement include reducing officers’ use of force; building and strengthening partnerships with other local and state agencies; reducing stress and trauma that officers may experience; and being able to provide alternative options and resources on the scene.

Thanks to this new partnership, UCS’s Bill Elwell, a Mental Health Crisis Specialist, now provides officers with on-the-spot mental health care resources and works directly with individuals who need mental health intervention. This collaboration between VST and UCS helps people in the midst of mental health crises by providing expert access in the moment.

9/10 9/10 VSP barracks have a mental health professional embedded.(1) Police-mental health collaboration (PMHC) programs allow officers to be safer, reduce repeat calls for service, minimize the strain on agency resources, and connect people with mental illnesses to services.(2)

Source links:

  1. https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/vermont/articles/2022-03-19/most-vermont-barracks-now-have-a-mental-health-crisis-worker
  2. bja.ojp.gov/program/pmhc/learning

Before he joined UCS, Bill worked with first responders and families as a chaplain and pastor to communities in crisis across Vermont, New England, and Eastern New York.

There is no typical day for Bill. He frequently finds himself alongside officers responding to calls with identified behavioral or mental components. De-escalating unexpected situations or helping people discover ways to change circumstances that have not yet been identified are all in a day’s work. Bill finds ways of providing resources to people waiting to be processed which can result in their realizing that a critical incident, or the decision leading up to it, need not define their lives. “It has become a chance for some to look at other opportunities for healing, growth and enjoying life,” says Bill.

In addition to his work with the public, Bill is an instructor for the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation and a chaplain for the VSP peer support team.

VSP Sergeant Todd Wilkins has made it clear that having a mental-health clinician working within the barracks has been invaluable. “It is a pleasure to have Bill work alongside us. His presence has de-escalated many situations,” he says. “Having a clinician embedded in the barracks has helped to bridge the gap between law enforcement and mental health so we can better serve our community.”

“I enjoy the opportunity to partner with state troopers each day, always seeking to meet people where they are at and support them in discovering choices, possibilities, and sometimes even hope on the worst days of their lives,” says Bill.

A smiling young white woman in a striped tank top and a smiling Latino man in a fleece vest stand next to each other holding blue bags and paper coupons
Taija LaFountain, Substance Use Disorder Case Manager and Alex Figueroa, Assistant Director of Substance Use Services, with Harm Reduction Bags.

Alex Figueroa, Assistant Director of Substance Use Services for UCS, plays a pivotal role as co-chair of the Bennington Opioid Response Team. This countywide partnership of over 40 members works to provide an integrated approach to bridge knowledge and service gaps to improve community-wide overdose prevention efforts.  Their work is especially critical at a time when Vermont has seen a 70% increase in opioid deaths from 2019 to 2021.

The team was awarded one of four Community Action Grants through the State of Vermont after Bennington County was identified as a county with high need—Bennington County has the second highest opioid death rate per capita in the state.*

A key initiative for the group has been the Outreach for Overdose Project, a partnership of the Bennington Police Department, Bennington Rescue Squad, Bennington Turning Point Recovery Center, the Bennington Opioid Response Team, and Bennington-area spoke services (part of Vermont’s statewide hub-and-spoke response to opioid treatment and intervention), with Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and United Counseling Service playing integral parts. The purpose of the project is to reduce substance use and overdoses, both fatal and non-fatal. Distributing Harm Reduction Bags, which include drug testing strips, Narcan and information about community resources that help people struggling with drugs, is part of the initiative.

light blue circle with text "UCS distributed 819 Harm Reduction Bags"“The work we do does not fall on one individual organization or one person, but a community at large,” says Alex. “I am so proud and grateful for everyone that has played a role in this important work. I look forward to the upcoming projects, including a women’s recovery residence, and additional positions that will increase care coordination for individuals with a substance use disorder.”


*Source: vtdigger.org article

A smiling white woman with blond hair and a black short-sleeved blouse standing outdoors in front of trees, next to a large metal sign that reads “Southwestern Vermont Medical Center,” with sub-heads including a Dartmouth-Hitchcock logo and additional text reading “Centers for Living and Rehabilitation,” and “Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center”)
UCS Mental Health Clinician Katie Aiken helps provide blended services in the offices of Southwestern VT Medical Center.

The Vermont Blueprint for Health is a state-led program that aims to integrate a system of health care for patients, improve the health of the overall population, and improve control over healthcare costs by promoting health maintenance, prevention, and care coordination and management.

Integrated health care blends medical with mental health services in one setting. Mental health providers placed in the primary care setting work together with primary care providers to help manage the patient’s overall health. The practice can offer easily accessible treatment when psychiatric conditions are identified, as well as offer case management opportunities to address challenges such as poverty, family stresses and housing insecurities. These are complex issues for which mental health providers are well suited to support patients, in partnership with primary care providers.

Embedding clinicians in primary care offices creates new opportunities to increase patient wellbeing by engaging in team care. In turn, easier access to mental health care improves the overall patient experience.

Blueprint clinician Katie Aiken is a UCS Mental Health Clinician working in the office of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center Pediatrics. “There is not a doubt in my mind that having Katie on site has helped to save lives,” said Dr. Ghazali of SVMC Pediatrics. UCS Clinicians embedded in primary medical offices work with patients and may also provide consultation to medical staff.

“Many of the patients I begin working with are experiencing mental health treatment for the first time. Knowing that they’re coming to their own doctor’s office where it feels less intimidating and stigmatizing helps them to accept the mental health treatment that is being offered,” says Katie. “For me, it continues to be an incredibly rewarding experience.”

When mental health isn’t cared for, not only are behavioral symptoms likely to worsen, they also have the potential to exacerbate medical conditions. Blending mental and physical health treatment results in care that is not only truly comprehensive but can also simplify access to various treatments for everyone.

A white woman with long brown hair wearing a maroon blouse with a floral pattern and a disposable surgical-style mask sits in a gray desk chair behind her brown wooden desk, facing a white woman, seen from behind, with shoulder-length brown hair and a peach-colored shirt.
COVID Case Manager Amy Stewart connects members of the community with services and resources.

Amy Stewart joined our team this year after funds were awarded to UCS for a COVID Case Manager position designed to address impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Amy provides support to residents of Bennington County by promoting mental health and prevention services, reducing risk factors, and increasing resiliency and other protective factors. Her goal as COVID Case Manager is to help those whose lives have been significantly disrupted by the pandemic, whether or not they are clients of UCS.

Amy meets with individuals in person and virtually, and refers individuals to outsides resources when UCS services are not required. She has developed relationships with many community partners, which better enables those working with her to get what they need while at the same time expanding UCS staff’s referral resources.

In addition to providing one-on-one services, she created a COVID-19 virtual group open to anyone in the community to join and discuss issues stemming from pandemic anxiety. This group ran for eight weeks and covered such topics as media detox, reconnecting with family friends and self-care.

Amy has found that many individuals she meets with are struggling with a lack of housing opportunities. Beginning with the pandemic in March 2020, Vermont experienced a significant influx of new residents. Many have permanently settled in Vermont, while less fortunate Vermonters struggle to find housing. Community organizations like Vermont Economic Services, BROC, and Shires Housing have been overwhelmed by inquiries regarding housing.

“I have discovered that it truly takes a village of caring individuals to make a positive impact on the lives of people still struggling through an ongoing pandemic,” said Stewart. “Whether it is collaborating with outside agencies, medical professionals, or UCS colleagues, I have faith that we can all rise above these challenges by working together to continue making a positive impact in our community.”

After a year’s hiatus due to the pandemic, UCS was delighted to once again host the Southern Vermont Youth Summit at Grace Christian School. Bennington County teens participated in workshops, visited with peers, and engaged in meaningful conversations.

Four white teenagers, in casual attire and surgical-style face masks, sit in a row. The nearest teen is prominent in a navy hoodie. Each teen is concentrating on a drawing they are working on, on a large piece of paper on the table they are sitting at.)
Youth Summit participants in a drawing workshop, one of many of the day’s offerings

Keynote speaker Dawn Campbell, Assistant Director of Student Services with the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, discussed equity and inclusion. She helped students find a sense of pride in themselves and learn to appreciate their differences. Workshops throughout the day included suicide prevention, substance use awareness, career skills, living healthy lifestyles, and more.

“This event gave young people a chance to share their thoughts and ideas about their generation’s problems,” says Rebecca Shuler, Intensive Service Manager in UCS’ Children, Youth and Family Service Division. “There were some fun workshops and some informative ones, allowing participants to have conversations about difficult topics like substance use and suicide prevention.”

Liam is a 13-year-old enrolled in UCS’ Developmental Services Bridge Program. The Bridge Program helps families of children and young adults under the age of 22 with developmental disabilities access and coordinate needed medical, educational, social, or other services.

An older white teenage boy in a royal blue sweatshirt and blue jeans and wearing a red bike helmet pedals an adult-sized three-wheel cycle in an empty parking lot surrounded by a field.
Liam enjoys his new three-wheeler, which provides the stability he needs to stay balanced.

Liam had previously tried using a bicycle with training wheels, but it did not provide him with adequate stability. After the need for a three-wheeled bike was mentioned, his case manager and UCS Leadership worked to obtain one-time funding to purchase a bike and Liam was able to take off.

According to Janel Burke, Family Services Program Coordinator, Liam—who doesn’t often make verbal requests—frequently can be heard asking to go for a ride. He enjoys riding his new three-wheeler when the parking lot at the Bennington Community Center clears out at the end of the day.

13 individuals participated in UCS’s Bridge Program this past year.

UCS offers Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to organizations throughout Bennington County. Through the EAPs, we provide confidential assessments, short term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to companies’ employees and their immediate family members who have personal and/or work-related problems. UCS works with each business and organization to determine training and workshops that may be beneficial to better support their employees.

Elizabeth Buckley, PHR Manager, Human Resources at The Bank of Bennington, comments, “Our EAP services with UCS provide peace of mind for our employees who are currently going through tough times. Employees know that if they ever need services, they would have support within the community. UCS is passionate about helping our employees and their families during challenging times.”


Watch UCS’ Doris Russell explain UCS’s EAP in this short video:


“Each time I find myself at the stable it is like I am mentally writing a chapter that helps me knit together my whole story. Emphasizing the word whole – this is my story of becoming complete; I use each horse as the launchpad to bring me from one level to the next.” – Equine Assisted Therapy Client

UCS Clinicians are finding success with clients of all ages using Equine Assisted Therapy, now in its second year at UCS. The program is based at Rhythm Hollow Stables in North Bennington, where UCS mental-health professionals and a qualified Equine Specialist work together to offer individuals and groups a treatment model that incorporates horses and provides a space for clients to discover answers within themselves. Horses are highly sensitive to human energy and actions, and are particularly sensitive to the energy of the moment. Tapping into the these equine qualities under guidance, clients who interact with the horses can find their ability to “learn what they see” enhanced. Group and individual learning exercises with the horses in the program help fine-tune participants’ awareness of their own attitudes and actions.

You can read more about our Equine Assisted Therapy program in this VT Digger article.

245 Equine Assisted Therapy sessions have taken place since the program’s inception.

40 UCS clients have been served since the program started.

UCS Presents on YouTube

UCS strives to find the right service, with the right provider, at the right time, for anyone seeking service. This year UCS created a process for individuals to get care when they need it, without waiting for an appointment. With UCS’ Finding Access to Services and Treatment (FAST) system, people can call or walk in and be seen by a team of professionals who are there to listen. Using methods based on Collaborative Network Approach (CNA), an interviewer leads the session, and a staff member will reflect on what occurs during the session. These reflections are intended to open a discussion and to bring useful observations to the participants.

Six white women in surgical-type face masks and floral dresses stand in a row, smiling at the camera. Behind them is a small banner attached to the wall that reads, "FAST: Finding Access to Services and Treatment"
The UCS FAST team works in groups to listen, reflect, and help clients problem-solve, using methods based on Collaborative Network Approach.

“FAST uses a team approach,” says Lori Vadakin, Director of Outpatient Mental Health and Substance Use Services. “We create a culture of psychological safety to determine the best approach to support an individual.”

One client who went through the FAST process reported “In the FAST session, I was [with] three women who partnered together to enable me an expansive look at my story that I willingly shared with them. After I shared my story, the other two… were asked what they heard me say, and the more we continued this process I began to realize the value of external resources.”

FAST is designed to help assess, triage, and respond efficiently and effectively to those who call or walk in. Through this method individuals and families feel heard, respected, and validated. People are seen immediately with the hope they leave with what they need—whether it be a referral, an appointment for services, or a solution to their issue.

437 people have been through FAST since its inception in January 2022

96% reported they found the experience helpful

There was a 44.6% decrease in clients’ SUD (Subjective Unit of Disturbance) scale from when they came into FAST to when they left

Caroline Gauthier, Bethany Keenan, Andrea Kolbe, and Makayla Stannard have joined UCS as Peer Support Advocates. This new team within UCS encompasses a range of activities and interactions among people who sharesimilar experiences in being diagnosed with mental health conditions. Peer support is also valuable to health professionals and the systems in which they work, providing insight gained from shared perspectives and experience in order to increase providers’ understanding of what their clients may be going through.

“The inclusion of peers with lived experience has been proven to improve outcomes in both addiction and mental health settings,” says UCS Executive Director Lorna Mattern, “Peer Support programs provide an opportunity for individuals who have recovered to assist others in their recovery journeys. Through shared understanding and respect, they help people stay engaged in the recovery process.”

According to a study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), peer recovery support is effective for people with mental-health conditions and has been shown to increase social functioning, quality of life, and satisfaction, while decreasing hospitalizations and costs to the mental health system.

“This group of four Peer Advocates bring amazing strengths and talents and provide hope for those in treatment,” said Joanne Larsen, UCS Community Supports Service Manager. “They are enthusiastic about expanding their knowledge through education and trainings. Their roles include leading recovery groups, mentoring and setting goals, sharing resources, and building skills.”

The Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriation Act provided $1.5 million to support strategic investments to increase the number of high-quality mental health and substance use disorder treatment professionals providing services in designated and specialized service agencies (DA/SSA). The Vermont Department of Health Office of Rural Health/Primary Care Office awarded this grant to Vermont Care Partners (VCP) to administer in collaboration with its network of 16 member agencies, providing statewide leader­ship for an integrated system of comprehensive services and supports.

A smiling white woman with long brown hair, with a pink chiffon scarf and navy blue blazer. An ID card hangs from a royal blue ribbon around her neck
UCS Director of Outpatient Mental Health and Substance Use Lori Vadakin.

After a stringent application process, UCS distributed $33,000 in Education Investment Program (EIP) funds to 11 staff members. Recipient Lori Vadakin, UCS Director of Outpatient Mental Health and Substance Use Services, responded, “I want to extend my deepest gratitude for the EIP reimbursement. I have been paying student loan debt since my early twenties when I graduated with my undergrad degree. I feel blessed working in a profession that I love…Thank you for helping me pay off my student loan debt!”

Jump on Board for Success (JOBS) is a program spearheaded by the Vermont Division of Vocational Rehabilitation in partnership with the Departments of Corrections, Mental health, and Children and Families. JOBS offers innovative and often very intensive assistance to youth transitioning to adulthood with accessing and succeeding in employment, education, housing, positive relationships, community connections, and living independently. The program is designed for young adults ages 16–21 who are experiencing significant emotional or behavioral challenges that interfere with their potential and who need encouragement to discover a positive place in their community.

Employers also benefit by offering young adults positive work opportunities that help their business, the young people they hire, and the community. The JOBS team at United Counseling Service has developed a network of local employers willing to work with our participants and help ensure long term success.

A smiling white teenage boy with long blond hair wearing a gray beanie, turquoise jacket, and blue jeans stands in a bike shop surrounded by parts bins and bicycle parts. He is holding a bicycle wheel and standing next to a blue mountain bike on a repair stand.
JOBS participant Aidan grew from a novice learner to mentoring other young adults.

This year, youth in UCS’ JOBS program had the opportunity to learn how to repair bikes. Working with the owner of a local bicycle shop, in addition to learning physical skills such as using tools and calibrating gears, they were taught communication and leadership skills valuable in the workplace and beyond.

The UCS Bike Project is a great way to expose our young adults to positive learning experiences. Held in a local bike shop under the guidance of a seasoned professional, the day-long intensive workshop allows teens to learn from the pro while developing hands-on skills. As their own repair skills develop over the course of one or more workshops, the teens become mentors to more novice cyclers, sharing their newfound wisdom and encouraging others to tackle new challenges.

“At the end of the day, they not only learn how to repair bikes, but they also learn the value of perseverance and experience what it is like to help others succeed,” comments UCS’s Aelish Nealon, Transitional Living Case Manager and JOBS Team member.

Aiden, a participant in our JOBS program, enjoys what he’s been doing. “I like going to the shop so I can learn different tricks and gain more knowledge in repairing bikes. I have learned so much, that I am now a mentor and can show teens new to the program how to work on their bikes.”

Commitment to building a healthy workforce

In 2018, UCS embarked on the Staff Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) to build a healthier workforce through a grant from Building Healthy Communities. Every year since, staff have participated in the completion of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) Worksite Health Scorecard. The tool is designed to assess whether we have implemented evidence-based health interventions and strategies that we can put in place to promote a healthy workforce, increase productivity, and reduce the risk and associated cost of poor employee health. This in-depth survey addresses topics such as

UCS Staff learning how to monitor and understand blood pressure

nutrition, physical activity, stress management, organizational supports and more. The idea is to assess and build health promotion programs to employees and monitor the progress over time.

“By obtaining a holistic view of the agency, we have been able to implement several key initiatives and promote wellness,” said Betsy Rathbun-Gunn, Director of Early Childhood Services and member of the SHIP Team. “We know that initiatives are most successful when they are leadership-supported, championed and developed with feedback from the people who know their staff and facilities best. We see the numbers and we make it work.”

Since launching the SHIP initiative, UCS has implemented a Paid Parental Leave Policy and a Nursing Mother’s Policy, on-site blood pressure monitoring in all of our facilities, staff health screenings and open medical office hours, and Employee Assistance Program (EAP) training for supervisors.


Amy Fela, Director of Operations, Chair of Worksite Wellness Committee

Rachel Olmstead-Miri, Nurse Consultant

Betsy Rathbun-Gunn, Director of Early Childhood Services

Beth Wallace, Asst. Director of Early Childhood Services

The UCS Superhero 5K was back and bigger than ever this year: 200 registered Logo in the shape of a diamond outlined in navy blue. Inside the diamond in all caps small text is “UNITED COUNSELING SERVICE” in navy blue above large 3-D all-caps cartoon-style lettering in red with navy dimensions, “SUPERHERO 5K”. The text is set over a graphic of a pale gray stylized tree knocked out of the mid-tone gray background.superheroes raised funds for The Gathering Place at Camp Ondawa, which offers individuals with intellectual disabilities a close-to-home camping experience with people they know and trust.

2021 Sponsors:

Bennington Banner and Manchester Journal
CIGNA • Heritage Family Credit Union

GVH Studio • MSK Engineers • Northeast Delta Dental • Southwestern Vermont Healthcare • Casella Waste Management • Hill & Thompson • rk Miles • The Richards Group • VNA & Hospice of the Southwest Region • Better Bennington Corporation • Chiro-Med and Rehab

Logo depicting a simplified graphic of the front of a red barn with a black roof, with a black haymow window above two white-outlined doorsThis year’s Barn Sale raised over $75,000—our best year yet.

Proceeds from The Barn Sale support UCS’s Northshire programs, including substance abuse recovery, outpatient mental health counseling, youth and family services, psychiatry, and other individual and group services supporting mental health. Committee Chair: Craigin Salsgiver


A group of women wearing white button down shirts and some wearing red half aprons post for a group photo.
The Barn Sale Committee plans and hosts the Barn Sale every fall to supports UCS programs in the Northshire.

Leadership & Financials

The Board of Directors oversees the operations of the community mental health and developmental services for Bennington County. 

  • Robert Thompson, President 
  • Charles Letourneau, Vice President 
  • Nathaniel Marcoux, Treasurer 
  • William Baldwin, Secretary 
  • Joseph O’Dea, Counsel to the Board 
  • David Ballou 
  • Kristi Cross 
  • Joanna Mintzer 
  • Stephanie Mulligan 
  • Lee Romano 

The Senior Leadership team is a group of talented individuals who are dedicated to community improvement and passionate about the work they do. 

  • Lorna Mattern, Executive Director 
  • Leslie Addison, Director of Human Resources 
  • Dawn Danner, Director of Developmental Services 
  • Jill Doyle, Director of Finance 
  • Amy Fela, Director of Operations 
  • Jason Fleming, Director of Children, Youth, and Family Services 
  • Heidi French, Director of Community Relations and Development 
  • Julie Pagliccia, Director of Northshire Services 
  • Betsy Rathbun-Gunn, Director of Early Childhood Services 
  • Alya Reeve, MD, Medical Director 
  • Lori Vadakin, Director of Outpatient Mental Health and Substance Use Services 


pie chart showing individuals served by each program
Category Amount
Psychiatric and Crisis Services 380
Outpatient Mental Health 1478
Children, Youth & Family Services 660
Substance Use Disorders 114
Developmental Services 206
Community Rehabilitation & Treatment 138

pie chart showing use of funds by program

Category Amount
Developmental Services 40%
Community Programs 32%
Children 10%
Rehabilitation & Treatment for Mentally Ill 8%
Adults 5%
Emergency 3%
Substance Abuse 2%


Category Amount
Salaries $10,560,442
Fringe Benefits $2,524,137
Other Personnel Costs $4,941,738
Operating Expenses $2,107,367
Travel & Transportation $334,718
Building Expenses $1,066,186
Total Expenses $21,534,588

Category Amount
Medicaid $16,554,897
Fees & 3rd Party Payments $517,055
Vt. Alcohol & Drug Abuse Division $543,043
Vt. Dept. of Mental Health $1,137,356
Vt. Dept. of Developmental Services $100,219
Other State Contracts $521,273
Local Revenue $1,330,956
Miscellaneous $829,789
Total Revenue $21,534,588

Annual Fund & Fundraising Events

Those we serve are at the heart of everything we do—helping people to grow, develop, recover and lead their best possible lives.  

We welcome your unrestricted donations to our General Fund or your contributions to one of our named funds. With your help we can continue to provide much-needed individual and group services and education, and reduce mental health stigma in our community.  

General Fund

Donations to our General Fund will be used to support services and programs in all areas, as determined by current needs. 

Charlie’s Fund

Charles “Charlie” Goodwin was hardworking, always holding down several jobs. His love of animals inspired him to volunteer at Second Chance Animal Shelter. Charlie’s Fund supports efforts to raise awareness of the importance of wellbeing by reducing the stigma often associated with seeking treatment. The fund assists with programming and education designed to fight stigma and support understanding. People with mental health conditions are not alone, and Charlie’s fund helps us get the word out.

Erin Skaar Memorial Fund

Erin cared deeply about both the two- and four-legged residents of Bennington County. Those who knew and loved her would say, “She would care for any critter that crossed her path in need of love and nurturing.” Erin extended her heart to others, and her memorial fund will carry out her wish to help alleviate suffering. Contributions will be used to facilitate a way out for those in violent relationships, improve advocacy for children, enable participation in equine-assisted psychotherapy, and conduct outreach to the greater Bennington community.

Gregory S. Hillman Fund

Gregory S. Hillman was a spirited young man who had attended Reed College. He was a highly accomplished musician and athlete, always there for friends in need. Hillman Fund supports youth suicide prevention initiatives, including providing Youth Mental Health First Aid training and additional youth suicide prevention programs at no cost to the community.

Together, we are building a stronger community. 

View all Donors

The UCS Superhero 5K was back and bigger than ever this year: 200 registered superheroes raised funds for The Gathering Place at Camp Ondawa, which offers individuals with intellectual disabilities a close-to-home camping experience with people they know and trust.

2021 Sponsors:

Bennington Banner and Manchester Journal
CIGNA • Heritage Family Credit Union

GVH Studio • Hickok and Boardman • MSK Engineering & Design • Northeast Delta Dental • Southwestern Vermont Health Care • Casella Waste Management • Goldstone Architecture • Hill & Thompson • rk Miles • The Richards Group • VNA & Hospice of the Southwest Region • Northeast Benefits Management



This year’s Barn Sale raised over $75,000—our best year yet.

Proceeds from The Barn Sale support UCS’s Northshire programs, including substance abuse recovery, outpatient mental health counseling, youth and family services, psychiatry, and other individual and group services supporting mental health. Committee Chair: Craigin Salsgiver


A group of women wearing white button down shirts pose for a group photo on stairs.
The Barn Sale Committee plans and operates the Barn Sale each year to support UCS programs in the Northshire.

Client Satisfaction Survey

We strive to provide the highest level of service and care, and it shows. According to an independently administered survey, our clients are overwhelmingly satisfied with UCS’s services and supports.

Client Satisfaction Survey


92% agreed/strongly agreed that I/We received services that were right for us. (1.26% increase)

90% agreed/strongly agreed I/We received services that we needed.

97% agreed/strongly agreed that staff treated me with respect. (2% increase)

88% agreed/strongly agreed the serves we received made a difference. (3% increase)

84% agreed/strongly agreed my quality of life has improved as a result of the services I/we received.  

80% extremely agreed/agreed I would recommend UCS to a family or friend. (1% increase)


“My daughter now has more confidence and does things outside of her normal comfort zone. Her strengths were acknowledged and encouraged!”-Parent of UCS Client

“Therapy, and the crisis hotline when needed, has helped me through some terribly difficult times.  Thank you, so much!”-UCS Client

“UCS and its staff has helped me in ways that are hard to describe.  Not sure what I’d do without them.  Thank you, so much!”-UCS Client

Staff & Community Recognition

Alicia Acevedo
Carolyn Brown
Janel Burke
Jean Cavalluzi
Lisa Dale
Kim Funck
Karin Gardner
Cindy Harrington
Shelby Kinney
Steven Lecce
David Malinowski
Stephen Mattison
Tommy Parker
Rebecca Shuler
Stacie Sullivan
Erica Townsend
Marisa Turner

A group of UCS staff members pose for a photo while holding their Excellence Awards, against a backdrop of green grass and trees with green foliage.
2021-22 UCS Excellence Award winners


Dr. Scully worked as the UCS Medical Director from 1977 to 1984 and was an inspiration to all who knew him. The Peter D. Scully Memorial Award is chosen by senior leadership and presented to employees who embody the highest qualities of professionalism, dedication, and sincerity in dealing with clients and colleagues.

Rebecca Bishop
Stacey Ray
Keili Trottier

Photo: (left to right): Stacie Ray, Rebecca Bishop, Keili Trottier

The UCS Nursing team:
Corinne Bakaitis, RN
Alyson Gerity, LPN
Rachel Olmstead-Miri, RN
Grace Winslow, RN

A group of three people pose for the Team Award photo.

The agency presents an annual award in memory of Julie Haynes Held, a recruiter in HR who dedicated her final years to UCS and those we serve. Her optimism and passion were evident in every interaction as she promoted a culture of caring.

Leslie Addison

A person with short red hair poses for the Held Award photo.

This award is given in memory of our longtime board president and devoted staff advocate to employees who have demonstrated a commitment to continued learning and professional development.

Jennifer Parizo
Noreen Stratton
Caroline Worthington

A group of three people pose for the Kouwenhoven Award photo.
Photo left to right: Noreen Stratton, Caroline Worthington, Jennifer Parizo

30 years

Doris Russell

A person with shoulder length brunette hair smiles for a photo.

15 years

April Chadwick
Karen Sousis

Two people pose for a photo while holding awards.

10 years

Crystal Clifford
Carol McLenithan
Andrea Mook
Laurie Sallisky
Jennifer Watson

Four people pose for a group photo with awards.

5 years

Courtney Andrews
Carolyn Brown
Casandra Buell
Courtney Carpenter
Samantha Hamilton
Melody Mentiply
Stephanie Pinsonneault
Katherine Williams
Lisa Woodson
Susan Wright

Five people pose for a group photo while holding awards.

I CARE Champions put excellence and care into action by demonstrating all five of the I CARE core values:

Ideal Service, Culture of Caring, Accountability, Responsiveness, and Empowerment.

Nancy Bemis
Jean Cavalluzzi
Nicole Chapman
Ken Cross
Jason Fleming
Emily Hakkinen
Christian Harris
Steve Lecce
Tom Parker
Vikki Potter
Tim Proud
Dan Sheldon

A group poses for a photo with their ICARE Awards.

The Harold C. “Archie” Warner Memorial Award

The Harold C. “Archie” Warner Memorial Award was created in 2008 in memory of former president of United Children’s Services Archie Warner for his longstanding commitment to UCS. The award is presented each year to an individual or organization outside of UCS that has made a significant contribution to our children’s programs. This year’s Archie Warner award was presented to both the Bennington Free Library and the John G. McCullough Library, who work closely with our Early Childhood Services division to provide our students with opportunities to learn and grow.

Photo: BFL: Linda Donigan and Carey Gutbier; JGM: Jenny Rozycki and Katrina Hastings

Four people pose for a group photo.

Cleveland and Phyllis Dodge Community Service Award

The UCS Board presents the Cleveland and Phyllis Dodge Community Service Award to a community member or organization whose support of UCS and its mission has been notable and significant. Dr. Trey Dobson, Chief Medical Officer of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, worked with UCS throughout the pandemic to provide information and advice on maneuvering through the ever-changing public health situation. With his close contact and consistent updates, we were kept well informed, allowing us to make effective health and safety decisions for our staff and clients. Dr. Dobson is a true partner in health care.

Photo- Lorna Mattern, Executive Director and Dr. Trey Dobson, SVMC Chief Medical Officer

A person with short blonde hair and a white scarf and a person with glasses and a purple button down shirt pose for a photo.

Programs & Services

1478 individuals served

  • Child, adult, family, and couples counseling 
  • Psychotherapy groups 
  • Mental health and developmental disabilities 
  • Evaluation and psychological testing 
  • Equine Assisted Therapy 
  • Community education and consultation services

114 individuals served

  • Alcohol and drug abuse counseling and education 
  • Substance abuse receiving center  
  • Assessment for and facilitation of detox or residential services  
  • Intensive Outpatient Program   
  • Consultation to agencies and schools  
  • Community outreach 

5,117 psychiatric and emergency services provided

  • Psychiatric evaluation 
  • Medication management 
  • Liaison to intensive hospital care 
  • 24-hour emergency service 
  • Battelle House crisis stabilization center 
  • Mobile crisis services

138 individuals served

  • Residential program 
  • Community support services 
  • Supported employment program 
  • Individual counseling 
  • Group counseling 
  • Programs for those with dual diagnoses

206 clients served

  • Residential services including group homes and shared living  
  • Community support services  
  • College Steps Program  
  • Case Management services  
  • Family support services  
  • Employment services  
  • Crisis services  
  • The Gathering Place at Camp Ondawa

660 youths and families served

  • Family Emergency Services (FES) 
  • Family outreach services 
  • Individual and group therapy 
  • Therapeutic case management 
  • Respite services 
  • School-based services 
  • Jump on Board for Success (JOBS) program 
  • Transitional Living Program 
  • Teens for Change Youth Group 
  • Camp Be A Kid 
  • Mentoring at UCS 
  • Psychiatric Urgent Care for Kids (PUCK)

180 families served

  • Bennington County Head Start 
  • Bennington County Early Head Start 
  • Parenting and family education 
  • Family outreach

 6 organizations use UCS for EAP

  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP) 
  • Management consultation 
  • Community partnerships 
  • Trainings/Webinars

United Children’s Services

Bennington County Head Start and Early Head Start provide essential services for children from birth to age 5. We partner with parents, teachers, and community members to create meaningful, measurable change.

Download the 2021-22 United Children’s Services Annual Report here.

Traditionally, Bennington County Head Start closes out the school year with a big end-of-year celebration called Spring Bash. After two years of the pandemic preventing us from holding our celebration in person, we were thrilled to bring back the event for 2022. The new Spring Center location on Gage Street in Bennington hosted 236 people at its first-ever Spring Bash. Everyone was overjoyed to be able get together and celebrate all the hard work done by staff, families—and, of course, the children—over the past year.

This year’s theme was based on the book I Went Walking by Sue Williams. Each Head Start and Early Head Start classroom created an activity station relating to a page in the book. We had everything from a “cow milking” station to a “yellow dog” station, thanks to our community partners at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, who brought their very own yellow Labrador to engage kids and adults alike. There was no shortage of fun happening at these activity stations.

Other community partners were also in attendance, each holding activities for kids and their families and providing information about their resources. Among the participating organizations were Alliance for Community Transformation (ACT), UVM Extension Master Gardeners, WIC, Vermont Arts Exchange, and many more.

At the end of the day’s festivities, each classroom group gathered so teachers could distribute well-earned certificates to their students and raffle off student-made prizes—including mosaic coasters, painted canvas tote bags, and wind chimes—to families in attendance.

As in previous years, all enrolled children were assessed at the Fall Baseline, Winter Midpoint, and Spring Final Progress checkpoints. Our teachers’ curricula focused heavily on lessons and experiences in Social and Emotional Development, Language and Literacy, and Approaches to Learning, as part of the School Readiness goals, and it is no surprise that these are the areas where children made the greatest growth this year. We continue to work with individualized plans for children and families well above the 10 percent required by the Office of Head Start: 24 percent of enrolled preschoolers had an active Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and 60 percent of enrolled infants and toddlers had an active Individualized Family Support Plan/Vermont One Plan for 2021–22.  53 children will transition to the public schools for kindergarten this fall. Final progress in June 2022 showed:A closeup of a blonde toddler in a green dress and red face mask holding up a pair of “binoculars” made up of two paper-towel holders taped together

Percentage of children meeting or exceeding age-level expectation:

Social and Emotional Development 
• 88% of infants and toddlers
• 88% of three-year-olds (increased 28% from fall)
• 79% of four-year-olds (increased 55% from fall)

Language Development
• 75% of infants and toddlers
• 85% of three-year-olds (increased 37% from fall)
• 87% of four-year-olds (increased 27% from fall)

Literacy Development
85% of infants and toddlers
• 66% of three-year-olds (increased 24% from fall)
• 78% of four-year-olds (increased 29% from fall)

• 74% of infants and toddlers
• 79% of three-year-olds (increased 32% from fall)
• 66% of four-year-olds (increased 29% from fall)

A closeup of a curly brown-haired, Brown toddler girl in a black tank top and maroon leggings sitting on a lawn holding a paintbrush, straddling a paper plate of paint on the grass in front of her; kneeling beside her is a Brown woman with her brown hair in a topknot, holding a fist-sized pumpkin she is helping the toddler to paint.Approaches to Learning
• 95% of infants and toddlers
• 86% of three-year-olds (increased 28% from fall)
•  87% of four-year-olds (increased 42% from fall)

Physical Development
• 89% of infants and toddlers
• 95% of three-year-olds (increased 20% from fall)
• 85% of four-year-olds (increased 24% from fall)

Scientific Reasoning
• 100% of preschoolers emerging or meets program expectation

The auditor’s report on compliance for the major federal award programs

Taking an early lead in supporting children and families through the pandemic can have lasting effects. Bennington County Head Start and Early Head Start staff worked tirelessly to mitigate the negative impact the pandemic would have on some of the A blonde toddler girl with her hair in a top ponytail, wearing a cloth face mask and white shirt with black stripes and black leggings, looks at the camera while crawling on top of a large foam platform block in front of a white-painted brick wall with a window and wall air-conditioner.community’s most vulnerable members, offering creative solutions to support children’s emotional and social development during a time of isolation. “We maintained our connec­tion with children and families,” said Betsy Rathbun-Gunn, Director of Early Childhood Services. “Whether through phone calls, emails, or food and activity packages dropped on doorsteps, we let our families know we were there for them.

Read more about the steps UCS took to help families with young children here: https://www.ucsvt.org/head-start-news/covid-impacts-the-youngest/

Family connection provides one of the most important influences in the development and identity of children. Recent years have seen increasing numbers of children who are being cared for by relatives (“kin”) on a full-time basis. Whether the arrangement is temporary or permanent, it is important for kinship caregivers to know that support is available.

Working together, United Counseling Service, Easterseals Vermont, and Southwestern Vermont Health Care have created a Kin Care group designed to build the strength of the extended family and provide supports for kinship caregivers. Participants in the group range from cousins to grandparents, all stepping up to care for their young kin. The group provides an opportunity to gather with others to share experiences,

Closeup of a young white boy with blond hair in a black t-shirt brushing his teeth with a red plastic toothbrush; to his left leans an older white man with short gray hair and a short white beard in a gray t-shirt, also brushing his teeth with a red plastic toothbrush.
2.9 million U.S. children (2%) are being raised by their grandparents. 

challenges and problems.

“The past six years have been a rollercoaster of emotions and challenges,” says Dawn, a caregiver and group participant. “Friends and family don’t always understand. Having a place to vent and feel like I am being heard makes a world of difference.”

US Department of Health & Human Services 

$ 3,257,1762 

State/Local Contracts 

$ 1,596,322 


$  168,495

Total Revenue 

$ 5,021,993 


$ 2,648,553 


$ 676,698 

Other Personnel Costs 

$ 394,741

Operating Expenses 

$ 712,940

Travel & Transportation 

$ 107,661

Building Expenses 

$ 468,113

Miscellaneous Expenses 

$   13,287

Total Expenses 

$ 5,021,993