Stephen Leffler, MD: Strengthening Community Health

better health system by Stephen Leffler headshot

Celebrating UVM Medical Center’s Longstanding Partnership with Howard Center

“I want to voice my gratitude to the Howard Center leadership and staff.”

In an era where the demands on our health care system are constantly increasing, the longstanding partnership between the University of Vermont Medical Center and the Howard Center is essential to our shared mission of ensuring that our community receives the care that they need where and when they need it.

Our relationship with the Howard Center is not just a simple partnership; working together, we form a better health system where each entity complements and extends the capabilities of the other.

This creates a more comprehensive health care framework for our community. Our team works to transition UVM Medical Center patients who are ready for discharge from inpatient psychiatric or emergency care to the programs offered by Howard Center when our patients are ready. Our team at UVMMC works to help Howard Center clients access hospital services at UVM Medical Center by facilitating timely coordination. This system is crucial in providing a full spectrum of health care services that our community relies on.

UVM Medical Center has been a strong supporter of the Howard Center’s initiatives.

We proudly supported the creation of the Street Outreach team, in partnership with the United Way of Northwest Vermont and the Burlington Business Association. For over two decades, this team has been instrumental in downtown Burlington, connecting individuals with unmet mental health and substance use treatment needs to vital services.

UVM Medical Center also backs Howard Center’s First Call for Chittenden County, a crisis response initiative that places Howard Center clinical staff directly in our emergency department. This collaboration ensures that individuals in crisis receive timely and appropriate care.

Looking to the future, we are excited about our joint venture with Howard Center, Community Health Centers, and Pathways in initiating a mental health urgent care center. This innovative center will serve individuals with urgent mental health needs, offering an alternative to the emergency department when a hospital visit is not required.

I want to be clear that these services benefit everybody in our community, not just the patients who have an immediate need for them. When patients receive care outside of the hospital, that means our hospital beds are more readily available to those who acutely need them.

Both organizations face significant challenges, such as workforce recruitment difficulties exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and Vermont’s housing and child-care shortages. These challenges affect both organizations to a great extent and require us to find ways to work together in new and creative ways to address the needs of our community.

I want to voice my gratitude to the Howard Center leadership and staff. We are united in tackling the challenges of 2024 and beyond in service to providing high quality mental health services to the community.