Howard Center CEO Bob Bick Announces Retirement

headshot of bob bick wearing a blue suit

Burlington, VT— After decades of service to Vermonters, Howard Center’s CEO Bob Bick announces that he will retire in June 2024.

A state and national leader, visionary, innovator, and licensed alcohol and drug counselor, Bob Bick has been Chief Executive Officer of Vermont’s largest human service organization since 2015 and in leadership positions with the agency for 30 years. He has held many board and service appointments and consulted at the state and national level. Over his long tenure, he has led with his heart to advance the care and treatment for mental health, substance use, and developmental services. Known for his compassion, client-centered focus, and the business acumen required to lead a $130M organization in a complex healthcare landscape—with 50 programs, 1600 employees, 60 locations, and serving 19,000 people annually—Bick’s contributions to Vermonters and beyond are numerous.

Howard Center Board President Meg O’Donnell says, “Bob leaves a remarkable legacy evident by the breadth, depth, and growth of the essential programming available to benefit our entire community, and by his leadership spanning decades to improve care for all Vermonters. I’ve valued his partnership as a board member and been continually impressed by his thoughtful, critical thinking about the complex challenges facing healthcare organizations today and his commitment to the people served by the agency. On behalf of the board, we are also grateful for a lengthy transition while we recruit his successor.”

Prior to Bick’s tenure as CEO, he was in leadership positions with the agency, including ten years as Executive Director of Champlain Drug and Alcohol, one of two organizations that merged with Howard Center for Human Services in 1994 to form the current-day Howard Center and as Director of Mental Health and Substance Use Services for over 20 years. His work has been instrumental in changing and saving lives and positively impacting healthcare through opening the State’s first methadone clinic in 2002, supporting the creation and implementation of Vermont’s Hub and Spoke treatment model to treat people with Opioid Use Disorder, establishing harm reduction services as a bridge to treatment and recovery, starting the Street Outreach program in downtown Burlington, and through many other collaborative initiatives.

As CEO, Bick’s accomplishments have been numerous over the last decade. He led the organization through a reorganization to transform Howard Center to better serve our clients, staff, and community. Under his direction, several initiatives were implemented to improve the client experience by simplifying access to services, sharing clinical expertise and leadership, and de-siloing programs including:

  • Establishing a single point of access to services through a new Access and Intake team and single main phone number
  • Integrating three crisis programs serving multiple populations into a single mobile crisis program to strengthen First Call for Chittenden County
  • Advancing by action diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout the organization and community
  • Streamlining management by joining all programs that offer Long-Term Supports and Services
  • Integrating Outpatient Services for children, youth, adults, and families
  • Establishing the Community Outreach program to work with first responders in nine communities throughout Chittenden County

Bick has also advanced the organization forward with a commitment to implement: market-based staff compensation strategies to recruit and retain a highly skilled workforce; workplace safety and security upgrades; a new Electronic Health Record; a robust community education program; prioritization of a board-directed strategic planning process; continued advocacy to improve funding for Vermont’s System of Care; and steadfast leadership to guide the organization through the COVID-19 pandemic incorporating learnings from one of the most challenging times in its long history.

I am so very grateful to have the privilege to serve an organization with such a critical mission—Howard Center is a cornerstone in our community and part of the fabric that holds us all together. I have been honored to work with our committed leadership team, staff, local and statewide community partners and board to forge relationships that improve the lives of individuals and families. I am confident that the agency will continue its steadfast commitment to its mission and to keep clients at the heart of decision-making.” Bick said.

Howard Center’s Board of Trustees will launch a national search for its next CEO. Board President Meg O’Donnell will chair the search committee and will solicit input and feedback from many constituencies including clients and families, staff and board, local and state partners, supporters, and community members.

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