HCRS recognizes community partners

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SPRINGFIELD — Health Care and Rehabilitation Services (HCRS), southeastern Vermont's community mental-health agency, has named the recipients of its 2018 Jim Bartley Community Partnership Awards. The awards were presented at the agency's annual meeting on Nov. 7 to the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust and to Robin Rieske, prevention consultant for Vermont's Alcohol & Drug Abuse Programs in the Brattleboro District. The awards honor the relationships built over many years between the non-profit agency and these community partners as they work to meet the mental health and substance abuse needs of individuals and families in southeastern Vermont.

The Windham & Windsor Housing Trust has provided housing opportunities for many of the individuals and families served by HCRS. Many HCRS clients struggle with homelessness; the partnership between the two organizations has provided untold numbers of individuals and families with a place they can call home, according to HCRS.

Earlier this year, the Trust opened the first permanent supportive housing project in southern Vermont. Known as Great River Terrace, the 22 unit housing project in Brattleboro is supporting people who are homeless and/or struggling with addiction or mental health issues. The Trust transformed a dilapidated motel into welcoming and bright units with a community space. This collaboration between the Trust, HCRS, and the Groundworks Collaborative ensures that residents not only have a roof over their head but are also connected to mental health, substance abuse, and other social services.

Elizabeth Bridgewater, executive director of the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, said, "It is an honor to have been granted the Community Partnership Award from HCRS this year. Our work together in developing a model of support for the residents at Great River Terrace has been very gratifying. The staff at HCRS brought commitment, compassion, and expertise to the process and in doing so, greatly contributed to realizing our vision of Great River Terrace as a place of stability and hope."

The second recipient of the 2018 Jim Bartley Community Partnership Award was Robin Rieske. As a passionate and dedicated advocate for substance abuse prevention for more than 25 years, Rieske has been a key partner in the agency's efforts to support those dealing with addiction as well as preventing addiction. Many individuals dealing with mental illness are also challenged by addiction. Rieske has been instrumental in the coordination of substance abuse prevention coalitions and has provided training, and consultation on substance abuse prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery.

Earlier this year, Rieske brought together HCRS and a diverse group of community partners to submit a successful $200,000 Rural Opioid Planning Grant to the Health Resources and Services Administration. This grant will provide funding for the development of a plan to help address the opioid crisis as well as other substance abuse issues in Windham County.

Rieske states, "It is truly special to receive an award from HCRS that honors Jim Bartley and the work of collaboration. As hard as community organizing can be at times, it really is the relationships and ability to work together that makes us all successful and effective in creating positive change. I could never do the work alone, so many thanks to all the wonderful partners who have been by my side in these endeavors!"

HCRS' Community Partnership Award was renamed the Jim Bartley Community Partnership Award in 2018 in memory of Jim Bartley, who worked at HCRS for more than 15 years and was known for his expertise in partnering with dozens of community organizations in order to meet the needs of clients.

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