WESTMINSTER WEST >> Once a year, those who need some physical help in getting to a most spectacular view of Vermont can take advantage of the Windmill Hill Pinnacle Association's Accessibility Day.

Scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 24, starting at 10:45 a.m. in Westminster West and 11 a.m. in Athens, this is a rare opportunity for a vehicle ride via the often-rough road leading to Paul's Ledges. At the overlook, participants will gather for lunch and a most outstanding view of the countryside. The popularity of this free program and the need for several four-wheel-drive vehicles to transport participants make registration a must for riders. Hikers do not need to register.

Participants should bring water, a bag lunch, snack, and sweater or jacket for possible chilly weather. They should meet promptly at Westminster West Church at 10:45 a.m. or at the Athens Dome Trailhead on Route 35, opposite Sleepy Valley Road in Athens, at 11 a.m., to carpool. All riding participants must register with Bev Major at 802-387-5737 or Elaine Gordon at 802-369-6103. In the event of inclement weather, the program will be canceled.

For more information, visit www.windmillhillpinnacle.org.


Collaboration sets standard for opioid abuse treatment

WATERBURY >> The Family Services Division of the Vermont Department for Children and Families participated in a workgroup to help the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare frame practice and policy considerations around the treatment of pregnant women with opioid use disorders. An outcome of this work was a new publication, "A Collaborative Approach to the Treatment of Pregnant Women with Opioid Use Disorders," that provides guidance to child welfare professionals and service providers as they work to address this population's unique needs.

FSD staff also helped develop one of the case studies published as Appendix Five in the guide. It tells the story of the Children and Recovering Mothers Collaborative of Chittenden County, known as CHARM. This Vermont initiative was included in the guide as a model of a community-based, collaborative and comprehensive approach to caring for families affected by opioid use. This multi-partner collaboration includes Howard Center, KidSafe Collaborative, Lund, University of Vermont Children's Hospital & University of Vermont Medical Center (formerly Fletcher Allen Health Care), Vermont Department for Children and Families, Vermont Department of Corrections, Vermont Department of Health, Vermont Department of Health Access, and Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle.

"We were pleased to be asked to participate in the development of this valuable tool and are excited that a Vermont initiative was included as a model for practice across the country," said Karen Shea, Interim Deputy Commissioner for DCF's Family Services Division. "It's nice to be recognized for the ways in which Vermont is a leader in this area. We are so fortunate to be working with our incredible partners to help pregnant women and families struggling with opiate addiction in Vermont."

Communities across the country have experienced increases in the rates of opioid misuse and dependence as well as the number of individuals seeking substance abuse treatment. Child welfare systems have reported increases in both case loads and the numbers of young children entering state custody as a result of these increases. Collaborative planning and delivery of services have been yielding some promising results.

The new publication is available online at ncsacw.samhsa.gov/default.aspx.

The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare is an initiative of the Department of Health and Human Services and jointly funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and the Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children's Bureau's Office on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Senior Solutions hosts 'Medicare Boot Camp'

PUTNEY >> Senior Solutions staff provides unbiased information about the Medicare system at Medicare Boot Camp. This free class is for Vermonters who are new to Medicare.

Medicare Boot Camp will be held in Putney on Wednesday, Sept. 15 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Medicare has strict enrollment periods, and Medicare Boot Camp prepares participants make timely decisions about drug plans and supplemental plans as well as many other issues. Family members who help new beneficiaries may also attend.

Space is limited, so call in advance to the Senior HelpLine for registration and detailed location information: 1-800-642-5119. More classes are listed at www.seniorsolutionsvt.org . Senior Solutions is also seeking volunteers to help with our Medicare department and outreach. To learn more, please call the Senior HelpLine.

Flu shot clinic at the Bellows Falls Area Senior Center

BELLOWS FALLS >> The Bellows Falls Area Senior Center will host a flu shot clinic on Thursday, Sept. 29, from 1 to 3 p.m. The clinic is sponsored by the Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire. No appointment is necessary, first come first served basis.

The vaccination is free for individuals with Medicare Part B insurance, please be sure to bring your card. Fee for all others is $25 per vaccination. The Center is located at 18 Tuttle Street in Bellows Falls; watch for Center sign and turn at the police/fire station, which is on the corner of Tuttle Street and Rockingham Street. Ample parking is available. The Center is handicap accessible.

Suicide awareness workshops scheduled for gun owners

BRATTLEBORO >> Two free suicide awareness workshops will be held in September, specifically for individuals who own firearms. Held in two locations, Rutland and St. Johnsbury, the one-and-one-half hour workshops are sponsored by the Vermont Gun Shop Project. Refreshments will be served and attendees have the opportunity to win a $100 gift card to Cabelas just by attending.

The Rutland workshop will be Sunday, Sept. 18, from 3:30 to 5 p.m., at the Rutland Country Club, and the St. Johnsbury event will be Sunday, Sept. 25, from 4 to 5:30 p.m., at the Fairbanks Museum.

The Vermont Gun Shop Project is a suicide prevention and awareness partnership between the Vermont Department of Mental Health, the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, Gun Owners of Vermont, and the Vermont Suicide Prevention Center.

Based on a model pioneered in New Hampshire and spreading to other states such as Tennessee and Colorado, the Gun Shop Project hopes to increase community knowledge that gun deaths in Vermont are primarily suicide deaths, that suicide can be prevented, and that gun-owners are often the best people to reach out to other gun-owners and help them remain safe when they are going through hard times.

The workshops will focus on separating facts from myths about suicide; basic skills in broaching the topic of depression, suicide, and guns with friends and family who may be going through a hard time; and how to assist people in finding help. The vast majority of suicide-attempt survivors do not go on to die by suicide.

Attendees of the free workshops will be entered into a drawing for a $100 gift card to Cabelas. Walk-ins are welcome, but people who register in advance will receive two entries into the drawing. Registration is available at www.healthandlearning.org/events.

These workshops are designed for gun-owning individuals. If you are a non-gun-owner and wish to attend, please contact Alex Potter at the Center for Health and Learning, 802-254-6590.

If you are feeling suicidal, or are concerned about someone else, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org to text/chat.

Saturday is suicide prevention day

BRATTLEBORO >> Saturday, Sept. 10, marks World Suicide Prevention Day, a day to create awareness of the preventable public health crisis of suicide. Every individual in a community can take an important role in preventing suicide.

The World Health Organization reports that more than 800,000 people die by suicide each year — one person every 40 seconds. Up to 25 times that number make a suicide attempt. The tragic ripple effect means that there are many, many more people who have been bereaved by suicide or have been close to someone who has tried to take his or her own life.

The number of lives lost each year due to suicide exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined.

World Suicide Prevention Day's 2016 theme — connect, communicate, care — is made up of the three words that are at the heart of suicide prevention, that can guide community members in how to help.

Fostering connections with those who have lost a loved one to suicide or have been suicidal themselves is crucial to furthering suicide prevention efforts. Social connectedness reduces the risk of suicide, so being there for someone who has become disconnected can be a life-saving act. Reaching out involves active listening and engaging with a person in a non-judgmental and supportive way. Connecting them with formal and informal supports may also help to prevent suicide. Individuals, organizations and communities all have a responsibility here.

Open communication is vital to combat suicide. In many communities, suicide is shrouded in silence or spoken of only in hushed tones. But suicide needs to be discussed as we would any other public health issue if we are to dispel myths about it and reduce the stigma surrounding it. People who have come through an episode of extreme suicidal thinking often say that sensitively-managed conversations with others helped them on their course to recovery.

All the connecting and communicating in the world will have no effect without the final ingredient — care. Community members need to make sure that policy-makers and planners care enough about suicide prevention to make it a priority, and to fund it at a level that is commensurate with its significance as a public health problem. Clinicians and other service providers need to care enough about it to make suicide prevention their core business. Individuals need to look out for others who may be struggling. Everyone needs to play a role in making sure communities care enough about it to be able to identify and support those who may be at heightened risk

Each year in the United States, National Suicide Prevention Week is held on the week surrounding Sept. 10 — this year from Sept. 5 through 11. The theme of the week is "Suicide Prevention is Everyone's Business!"

On Sept. 10, join with others around the world who are working towards the common goal of preventing suicide. Check in on someone you may be concerned about, and start a caring conversation with them, asking them how they're doing. Investigate ways of connecting with others who are trying to prevent suicide in your community, your state, your country, or internationally.

In Vermont, the Vermont Suicide Prevention Center can be found at www.vtspc.org and the Vermont Suicide Prevention Coalition meets quarterly.

If you are feeling suicidal, or are concerned about someone else, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org to text/chat.

Wings of Hope raises funds for hospice programs

LEBANON, N.H. >> On Saturday, Sept. 10, from 1 to 3 p.m., Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire will host the seventh annual Wings of Hope Butterfly Release ceremony at Colburn Park.

Purchase and release a butterfly for $20 and help support programs and services provided by the organization. In addition to the butterfly release ceremony, the day will also feature inspirational reflections from VNH employees and performances from the First Congregational Church of Lebanon Choir and Friends, vocalist Lily Sylvestre and a Scottish Highland Bagpipe performance by Matt Phelps.

To purchase a butterfly, visit vnhcare.org/wingsofhope or call 888-300-8853.

Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire (VNH) is dedicated to delivering outstanding home health and hospice services and enriching the lives of the people they serve in more than 160 towns in Vermont and New Hampshire. A non-profit organization, VNH offers nursing, rehabilitation, hospice and personal care services.

Tai-chi at Gibson-Aiken

BRATTLEBORO >> Steve Green will offer tai chi classes on Wednesdays at the Gibson-Aiken Center, 207 Main Street. This seven-week session begins on Sept. 14 and runs through Oct. 26, and classes run from 10 to 11 a.m.

The cost is $50 for residents and $75 for non-residents. Individual classes can be taken for $10/$12. Participants must register at the Gibson-Aiken Center office on the first floor.

Green is certified by the Arthritis Foundation in the instruction of tai chi for health and arthritis. Tai chi is a powerful tool in healing and strengthening the body, mind and spirit. Flowing movements improve balance, increase flexibility and joint mobility and reduce stress. For information or to register for the class, call 802-258-4833 or e-mail srgreen2012@gmail.com.