Archive - October 2017

1
Vermont Health Connect 2018 Open Enrollment Runs Nov.1 – Dec. 15
2
Saturday, October 28 is Prescription Drug Take-Back Day
3
Would You Know How to Help?
4
Healthy Pumpkin Recipes
5
Pickleball
6
WIC & Gluten-Free Living
7
 The Shallowness of Sanity
8
Care Coordination at Copley Hospital
9
Lamoille Valley Rail Trail
10
The Developing Brain

Vermont Health Connect 2018 Open Enrollment Runs Nov.1 – Dec. 15

Enroll in a Plan, Make Changes to Existing Plans, Compare Plans

Now is the time to consider your health insurance options and choose the health plan that best fits your medical needs and budget. The Department of Vermont Health Access (DVHA) has launched the “2018 Plan Comparison Tool,” an online tool that allows people to compare at least 24 health plan options by monthly premiums and deductible amounts as well as by estimated total annual costs. The 2018 Plan Comparison tool is available online at https://vt.checkbookhealth.org. Now is the time to consider your options as the 2018 Open Enrollment for Vermont Health Connect runs November 1 through December 15th.

Open enrollment is the period of time when people who are eligible to enroll in a Vermont Health Connect plan can enroll in a plan, make changes to an existing plan, and/or choose a different plan. Current Vermont Health Connect members that are satisfied with their current health care plan are not required to take any action. As long as they continue to pay their bills, they will automatically be renewed into the 2018 version of their 2017 plan. However, if they wish to comparison shop various plans, state officials suggest they do their research now, before open enrollment begins.

When logged in to the 2018 Plan Comparison Tool, you will be asked to enter your age, income, health status, and expected use of medical services. From there, the tool tells the user if they qualify for subsidies to lower the cost of coverage. It also presents the estimated total costs of each of the 24+ qualified health plans in a typical year as well as a high-use year.

More than three-quarters of Vermont Health Connect members find that they qualify for subsidies to lower the cost of insurance, with the typical individual receiving $395 per month toward the insurance plan of their choice. For most uninsured Vermonters, this means it is cheaper to buy health insurance and gain health care than to pay the federal fee for being uninsured and still risk the immense costs that can come from an accident or unexpected illness.

Starting November 1st, applicants can sign up for Vermont Health Connect in one of four ways: online, by phone, by paper, or with an in-person assister. For more information or to get started, visit http://VermontHealthConnect.gov or call 1-855-899-9600.

Copley Hospital Patient Financial Counselor Angela Griggs is also available to assist people with enrollment. She can be reached at 802-888-8336.

For more information, visit https://www.copleyvt.org/about-us/articles/vt-health-connect-open-enrollment-runs-nov-1-dec-15.

Saturday, October 28 is Prescription Drug Take-Back Day

Police & Sheriff Departments, Kinney Drugs Accepting Unused, Unwanted, Expired Prescription Drugs

Most people who abuse prescription painkillers get them from friends or family – often straight out of the medicine cabinet. By ensuring the safe use, storage and disposal of prescription drugs, you can help make sure drugs don’t get into the wrong hands, or pollute our waterways and wildlife.

Health departments and drug disposal sites around the country are joining the Drug Enforcement Agency this Saturday, October 28, for National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, providing a safe, convenient and responsible way to dispose of prescription drugs. The last event took place on Saturday, April 29, when Vermonters brought back 5,553 pounds of prescription drugs.

You can drop off unwanted prescription drugs (pills only, no sharps or liquids) on Saturday, October 28 from 10am-2pm to:

  • Hardwick Police Department
  • Kinney Drugs in Cambridge
  • Kinney Drugs in Morrisville
  • Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department in Hyde Park
  • Stowe Police Department

As always, unwanted medicines may be turned in anytime at the Hardwick Police Department and the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department.

For more information, visit healthylamoillevalley.org/prescription-drugs and http://www.healthvermont.gov/alcohol-drugs/services/prescription-drug-disposal.

 

Would You Know How to Help?

By: Nancy Wagner

Have you ever witnessed someone experiencing cardiac arrest and thought to yourself, “Would I know what to do to help?” Time is of the essence. According to the American Heart Association, most people who experience cardiac arrest at home, work or in a public location die because they don’t receive immediate CPR from someone on the scene.

Knowing what to do and being willing to help can double or even triple a person’s chance of survival. Copley Hospital offers CPR classes for the public. Follow this link for a list of dates, times and cost: https://www.copleyvt.org/classes-and-events/. These CPR classes also cover what to do if someone is choking and proper use of an AED. If you are an employer and would like us to come to your workplace, please call the Wellness Center at 888-8369.

I recently taught a class which included my son, Pete, and my husband, Scott.  Pete commented, “Wow, that’s really easy. Almost anyone could do that!”  And Scott said he wouldn’t hesitate to jump in and help if someone were in trouble. A week later another participant found herself choking and was able to use a chair to dislodge the culprit.  Talk about putting your knowledge to good use!

Much more information can be found at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/. Not from this area and looking for a CPR class? Most fire and ambulance departments offer classes or could help you find one in your area.


Nancy Wagner is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and a Certified Diabetes Educator at Copley Hospital. She provides health and wellness to Copley employees through screenings, education and fun activities; educates patients regarding their nutrition and diabetes needs; and works with community members providing education to schools and businesses. Nancy enjoys helping others learn new things about nutrition, their health habits, and their chronic diseases.

Healthy Pumpkin Recipes

By: Alexandra Duquette

 

 

The season of the pumpkin is upon us and with that comes pie, lattes, beer, and even cereal flavored with that sweet, earthy gourd. While these can all be delicious, they are hard on our wallets, and even harder on our waistlines. And with fall marking the beginning of the holiday season where many of us see the numbers on the scale slowly creep up, why not start out on a positive note with some healthier recipes featuring those favorite fall flavors?

Turkey Pumpkin Chili

This twist on a cold weather classic is packed with protein and fiber that is sure to fill you up and keep you warm when the temperature starts to drop.  You could easily make this recipe in a slow-cooker for a “ready when you are” dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey (15% fat)
  • 2/3 cup chopped onion
  • ½ cup green pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed (15 ounce or 1 ¾ cups)
  • 1 can great northern beans, drained and rinsed (15 ounce or 1 ¾ cups)
  • 1 can solid-pack pumpkin (15 ounce or 1 ¾ cups)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (15 ounce or 1 ¾ cups)
  • 1 can chicken broth, low sodium (15 ounce or 1 ¾ cups) (See Notes)
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 package taco seasoning mix (1.25 ounces) (See Notes)

Directions:

  1. Pour oil into a 4 quart (or larger) saucepan.
  2. Add ground turkey, onion, green pepper, and garlic.
  3. Cook and stir, breaking meat apart until meat is browned and vegetables are tender.
  4. Stir in the beans, pumpkin, tomatoes, broth, water, brown sugar, and taco seasoning.
  5. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 hour.
  6. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours.

Notes:

  • Broth can be canned or made using bouillon. For each cup of broth, use 1 cup very hot water and 1 teaspoon or cube bouillon.
  • For lower sodium, use a low-sodium or salt-free seasoning mix.

Serving size: 1 cup, Calories per Serving: 220, Total Fat: 4.5g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol 25mg, Sodium 430mg, Total Carbohydrate: 29g, Dietary Fiber: 9g, Sugars 7g, Protein: 17g

 

 

Low Fat Pumpkin Bread

A perfect lightened-up version of a true fall favorite.

Ingredients:

  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree 9Canned or home-roasted)
  • 1 cup p0akced brown sugar
  • 1 cup dried plum puree (see notes)
  • 1 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg.
  3. Add the eggs and pumpkin, stir until mixed together.
  4. In a large bowl, blend that plum puree, brown sugar, and sugar.
  5. Lightly coat an 8 ½ x 4 ½ -inch loaf pan with cooking spray or oil and set aside.
  6. Add dry ingredients to the plum mixture. Stir only until the dry ingredients become moistened. Be careful not to overmix.
  7. Pour batter into loaf pan and spread into corners.
  8. Bake for about 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the load comes out clean.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 10 minutes.
  10. Remove from pan and let cool completely on wire rack. Slice to serve.
  11. Wrap in plastic or foil and store for several days or freeze for up to one month.

Notes:

  • To make the dried plum puree: Combine 2/3 cup pitted dried plums (4 ounces) and 3 tablespoons water in a blender. Blend until finely chopped.
  • If you don’t have dried plums on hand, try using applesauce or plum baby food.

Serving size: 1 ½ inch slice, Calories per Serving: 120, Total Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 0g, Cholesterol 25mg, Sodium 120mg, Total Carbohydrate: 28g, Dietary Fiber: 1g, Sugars 17g, Protein: 2g

 

Recipes from Oregon State University’s “FoodHero.org.”


Alexandra Duquette is the Clinical Dietician for Copley Hospital, where she sees inpatients and outpatients daily. As a former pastry chef, she has realigned her career to aid people in enjoy food while keeping their bodies healthy and strong.

Pickleball

By: Caleb Magoon

There is a fitness craze sweeping the nation and it’s not crossfit, plyometrics or anything else. It’s a game being played mostly by seniors but also by everyone else out to have fun and stay fit. You still may not have heard of Pickleball, but it’s huge!

Pickleball is a game merging tennis, badmitton, and table tennis. While it hasn’t yet gained wide popularity in all of Vermont, we’re seeing it pop up everywhere else. It’s gaining popularity because it’s a fun and reasonably easy way to stay active.

The basics: The court is quite like a tennis court, though a smaller version similar to tennis without the “side alleys.” You play on the same court for singles or doubles. The rules are similar to tennis or table tennis, starting with a serve to the opposite court, a volley, and someone racking up some points.

Here is where things are a bit different: the equipment. The “racket” is actually a wooden or composite paddle bigger than one for table tennis and smaller than a tennis racket. The ball is essentially a whiffle ball. The result of this paddle/ball combo is that you can only hit it so hard. A whiffle ball loses speed rapidly so even a big smash will die before it gets back to the court. This slows the game down and makes it more manageable, a slower speed with less running than traditional tennis. That said, you can put a lot of spin on that little ball, keeping the game very interesting.

I learned pickleball right at Lamoille Union High School and hadn’t heard of the game until fairly recently. While it has been around since the 60’s, it’s only now gaining popularity. The game took hold especially with senior citizens. The draw is simple- the small court and slightly slower pace make it much more manageable than tennis, yet you still get a workout hustling around the court.

In our area, Waterbury was the first community I know of where the sport gained popularity. It’s played on the tennis courts and paddles are available at the Recreation department. It has spread a bit more recently and you can now find games at the People’s Academy and Hazen Union Tennis Courts. Folks are starting to clammer for more courts and more people are learning about the game.

This is a fun, easy game that anyone can play. Rest assured, there will be a game near you soon enough. Have you played Pickleball yet?


Caleb Magoon is a Hyde Park native who grew up hiking, hunting, biking and exploring Vermont’s Green Mountains. His passions for sports and recreation have fueled his career as the owner of Power Play Sports and Waterbury Sports. Caleb encourages outdoor activity and believes it is an essential element to a healthy lifestyle and the Vermont way of life. Caleb serves the Lamoille Valley by volunteering on numerous community boards such as the Lamoille County Planning Commission, The Morrisville Alliance for Commerce and Culture, Mellow Velo, and the state chapter of The Main Street Alliance. He lives, plays and works in Hyde Park with his wife Kerrie.

WIC & Gluten-Free Living

By: Nancy Segreto, BS, Nutritionist, Vermont Department of Health, Morrisville

WIC in Morrisville office recently offered a class on Gluten-Free Living in partnership with the Morrisville Co-op. WIC  provides nutrition education as well as healthcare referrals and supplemental foods for income-eligible pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five. WIC offers wellness classes and activities that are often open to the public, free of charge.

The class focused on simplifying the process of planning, shopping and cooking gluten-free, as well as sharing basic facts that could clear up common misconceptions. Participants played a ‘Fact or Fiction’ sorting game, sampled delicious healthy gluten-free foods and went home with mini binders filled with tips, recipes, planners and a free gluten-free cookbook for busy people on a budget.

What’s all the craze about eating gluten-free?

Why are so many people choosing to be gluten-free? Are gluten-free foods healthy? Is there a roadmap for navigating the myriad of gluten-free foods on the market? What is the difference between food allergies, celiac disease, and gluten sensitivity? How do we sort gluten-free fact from fiction?

Gluten is a protein found naturally in wheat, barley, and rye. It is also used as a filler to improve texture and is found in many processed foods. People who have been diagnosed with celiac disease or with non-celiac gluten sensitivity must follow a gluten-free diet. Currently, the only treatment for celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is a gluten-free diet. Fortunately, a gluten-free diet will improve symptoms, according to a 2008 Journal of the American Dietetic Association (now Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) article.

How do you plan a gluten-free meal?

MyPlate is the latest USDA nutrition guide, a pie chart (plate) depicting a place setting divided into five food groups:  

  • 50% vegetables and fruits (mostly vegetables)
  • 20% protein
  • 30% whole grains, with additional healthy fats and dairy. 

To become gluten-free only the whole grains section needs to be adjusted, choosing grains such as quinoa, rice, millet, teff, and gluten-free oats instead of wheat, barley, and rye. WIC offers brown rice, corn tortillas, and gluten-free breakfast cereals as alternatives to whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta and breakfast cereals made with gluten.

 

Traditional Diet Whole Grains Gluten Free Whole Grains
Wheat, barley, rye
Rice, quinoa, millet, teff, oats, corn Rice, quinoa, millet, teff, GF oats, corn
Baked goods- all (use sparingly) Baked goods with GF flour only (use sparingly)

 

Myths and Misconceptions

Avoid the gluten-free processed food traps! That chocolate cupcake is not good for you. Gluten-free processed baked goods usually have more sugars, carbohydrates, and additives than their wheat counterparts. These items should be used sparingly as a treat or when everyone else is eating the pizza or party cake, and the gluten intolerant person wants to join in.

If you suspect you have celiac or NCGS, experts recommend being screened by a healthcare provider. If you try a gluten-free diet, stick with whole foods and grains and use baked goods sparingly. The Celiac Foundation website has a wealth of resources. You can also check out the Morrisville Department of Health Facebook page for upcoming scheduled classes and events.

 The Shallowness of Sanity

By: Mary L. Collins

From the frontispiece of Joan Didion’s book, “The Year of Magical Thinking,” the writer chronicles the devastating illness and near death of her only child and of the loss of her husband of 40 years, the writer John Gregory Dunne, that same year. Didion speaks of the unspeakable; the “shallowness of sanity.”  She references that moment when we recognize we may be losing our grip on all that we know to be “normal.”  The balance we keep with what we consider our sanity is, Didion recognized, at best, tenuous.

So, what do we do when we feel at the edge of our capability to cope – as all of us do to some degree at various points in our lives?

This past weekend, I had the honor of spending time with a talented and dear artist who manages to maintain a sense of the magic and mystery of life just by the way he extracts himself from its noise. As a fine jeweler and photographer, Peter’s work takes him out of normal “seeing” every day. This is a person whose talent leaps outside the bounds of the normal. His work is extraordinary, indeed, magical. Within the work, Peter embodies a knowing that comes from wisdom, observation, patience, compassion, and humility. He lives these practices; and so, his knowledge grows as does his expression and artistry. I believe his sanity is derived from his dedication to expression. His method of expression, however, takes him to the edges of “normal” experience all the time.

I’ll attempt to explain.

Peter shared a story of a dream. In this dream he was given a vision of an object. That object was a deer toe rattle. As a fine jeweler, he understands the knowledge that is in his hands and translates that knowing into whatever piece he is making – be it a necklace with gemstones, or a deer toe rattle. He explained that the dream was extremely vivid, compelling, and insistent. He didn’t know why he was obliged to make the rattle. He just knew he was supposed to make it.

He told me, “I have come to trust that the reason for the rattle and me dreaming it would reveal itself in time.” And it did.

He explained further, “There was a young man I met at a Native American gathering who suffers from a form of muscular debility. Dancing at Pow Wows is part of this young man’s tradition; and so, he dances. He is amazingly powerful. Focused. Intense. Dedicated.” When you watch the young man dancing, which I, too, have witnessed; he is the ONLY person in the circle. His devotion to his craft is evident. His body contorts. He struggles to do all the steps. His balance is shaky. Still, he dances. And he is beautiful in his struggle and perseverance.

Peter said, “When I saw this young man dance, I knew it was he who I was to gift the deer toe rattle to.”

If you were ever given the opportunity to see Peter’s work, I am sure you would agree that it is breathtaking, museum quality art. If it were for sale, it would be extremely expensive to purchase. This was no superficial message or gift. To recognize the young dancer in this way, spoke volumes about both person’s dedication and understanding of what matters and what is truly of value. For the boy, it is dancing despite a debilitating handicap; for the artist, it is to listen to the messages, do the work, and honor the dream, even if the purpose is not always, at first, clear.

How does this relate to the quote from Didion’s book or to our understanding of wellness?

I believe the connections we make and honor keep us from “the shallowness of sanity.” When we separate from others, we risk becoming lost. It’s that simple. Connection can be anything from slowing down to watch birds fly south for the winter on your drive home from work. It can be to visit an elder in a nursing home or spend time with someone who is homebound and bring them the gift of your attention. It can be to walk barefoot and feel the earth under your feet. It can be to choose a different place to sit in the cafeteria with a student or co-worker whom you don’t normally socialize with – older, younger, shy, gregarious, popular, or not. It can be to listen without defense or pretense; or, to speak with confidence and courage. Or it can be the dream of a deer toe rattle designed, crafted, and gifted to a person you’ve never met.

The point is, find a way to connect. Our sanity is sometimes held securely with the deepening and meaningfulness of our connections to each other and to the many gifts freely provided to us – as long as we recognize them in our midst.

September was suicide awareness and prevention month. For more information about how you can advocate for those who may have become lost in some way, contact NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill), Lamoille County Mental Health or your own physician, counselor, family or friends.  There are many ways to find help and support.


Mary L. Collins is the Marketing Director at Lamoille Home Health & Hospice. A 2014 Home Care Elite Top Agency, LHH&H is one of eleven VNAs of Vermont home health and hospice agencies serving Vermont. She also serves as Marketing Director at The Manor, a 4 star nursing home and short term rehabilitation facility in Morrisville, VT, and she chairs the Lamoille Region Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. 

Care Coordination at Copley Hospital

By: Leah Hollenberger

Social Determinants of Health

The Social Determinants of Health (Image via American Public Health Association)

 

Many words have been written about care coordination and addressing the social determinants of health as a way to reduce healthcare costs. But what does that really look like?

Healthy People 2020 defines social determinants of health as “the conditions in which people are born, live, work, and age that affect their health.” They include factors such as education, the safety of our homes and neighborhoods, financial security, the cleanliness of our water and air, access to good nutritional food, etc.

Care coordination is a collaboration between providers, social services and the patient themselves. It often sounds simpler than it actually is. Let’s be clear: one meeting doesn’t lead to change. Thoughtful, consistent care coordination involving the patient and all members of their care team is needed over the long term to help someone become healthier. That care team can include local health care providers, substance abuse counselors, mental health counselors, RN case managers, social workers and a variety of other case managers from across local agencies.

So how does it work? Let me share a few examples. (Note: We have changed names to protect privacy.)

The Right Care in the Right Place at the Right Time
Copley recently treated Joe in our ED and, due to the severity of his illness and the resources required to manage his care, transferred him a tertiary hospital. His health improved but he still needed weeks of inpatient skilled nursing and complex care coordination to ensure once he was home, he had a secure social support network to assist him. Joe wanted to be cared for at Copley as it was closer to home and easier for his family to participate in his care. The tertiary hospital was reaching capacity, and, coupled with the need for local care coordination and Joe’s preference, contacted Copley. There was no question that Copley could provide the medical care, but we weren’t sure if we would be able to meet his other needs to ensure a smooth transition. After three weeks of collaborative teamwork with nurses, providers, pharmacists, care managers, social workers, Chaplaincy, nurse leaders, and the patient himself, a plan was developed to address both Joe’s social and clinical issues so he could be admitted to Copley and provided with the appropriate continuation of care. Joe was able to receive the inpatient skilled nursing care and complex care coordination he needed in a more affordable setting, closer to home.

Reducing Avoidable Emergency Department (ED) Visits
John is a middle-aged man who has come to Copley Hospital’s Emergency Department nearly 40 times in the past two years.  In addition to his alcoholism, John struggles with mental health issues and has a long cardiac health history. He is considered a “super-utilizer” of medical services. Copley has a full-time social worker in our ED as part of an Emergency Department Care Coordination pilot with Community Health Services of Lamoille Valley. The social worker assesses the patient’s needs 1:1 either at the bedside or through a follow-up call. Copley’s social worker was able to connect with John 1:1 in the ED earlier this year.

Copley’s social worker subsequently met with John each time he presented to the emergency department and followed up each visit with a phone call to review discharge plans and follow-up appointments. With John’s permission, she kept each of his various providers informed after each visit. After several visits, John met with Copley’s ED social worker and his primary care RN care coordinator to talk about his goals and what he thought he needed to be successful. Two weeks later, he decided he was ready for treatment and came to the Emergency Department for help. Copley’s ED team, inpatient medical social worker, and ED social worker all worked throughout the day to help get him admitted into an appropriate facility for inpatient alcohol treatment.

The ED social worker continued to check in with the inpatient facility and advocate for John. He was able to remain in the program for a longer period of time and she coordinated transportation with Rural Community Transportation (RCT) in advance for his follow-care plan appointments. Forty-eight hours after discharge, John met with his primary care RN care coordinator to review his discharge plan and ensure he had what he needed to be successful. Copley’s ED social worker continued to contact John and his providers regularly, confirming he had attended appointments with his substance abuse counselor, psychiatrist, primary care provider, specialist appointments, and RN care coordinator. This plan was followed for four weeks, at which point, John’s ongoing case management was transferred to his primary care RN case coordinator.

The outcome? John has maintained his commitment to make healthier choices. The shared care plan continues, with the goal of eliminating future costs of avoidable visits to the ED, by keeping John and patients like him, feeling engaged, motivated, and supported to make healthy choices.

Reducing Costs
Copley Hospital recently participated in an initiative to reduce the percentage of ED visits of 29 identified “super-utilizers” by implementing a shared care plan. The 29 “super-utilizers” accounted for 4% of the total ED visits in the initial 90-day time period; they accounted for only 1% in the second 90-day time period. A potential $144,300 was saved by this decrease in ED visits. This collaborative initiative involved Blueprint for Health Medical Homes (Community Health Services of Lamoille Valley, Northern Counties Health Care, Family Practice Associates in Cambridge and other primary care practices), Vermont Chronic Care Initiative with the Vermont Department of Health, and other local health agencies along with Copley Hospital.

These are just three examples of care coordination at Copley. We plan to continue the ED Care Coordination pilot, with Copley helping to fund the social worker position in the ED. However, we know this will not be enough to meet the need.  We continue to strive to provide excellent patient care for needed services and invest in programs to help reduce the rising cost of health care. Copley will continue to advocate for and contribute to shared care plans to connect patients with needed health services and social determinants support, collaborating with existing organizations and resources, to help patients make healthy choices.


Leah Hollenberger is the Vice President of Marketing, Development, and Community Relations for Copley Hospital. A former award-winning TV and Radio producer, she is the mother of two and lives in Morrisville. Her free time is spent volunteering, cooking, playing outdoors, and producing textile arts. Leah writes about community events, preventive care, and assorted ideas to help one make healthy choices.

Lamoille Valley Rail Trail

By: Lea Kilvádyová, Lamoille County Planning Commission

This year’s foliage marks the second season of a year-round use of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail between Morristown and Cambridge. And, what a ride it has been to be able to take advantage of this precious addition to living well in Lamoille!

For me, the Rail Trail has become a pleasurable way to commute on bike from my home in Johnson to my place of work in Morrisville. For an after work and after-school activity, my family has developed a fun routine riding our bikes from Johnson Village to an iconic bridge overlooking Lamoille River in Johnson. In addition to biking, the trail has become my red carpet for running; an activity I have been attempting to start and sustain for years. Now – thanks to the Rail Trail, I have successfully been putting in 5K twice a week! I encourage all to explore the Trail; it is peaceful, safe and very scenic. In addition, unlike most terrain in Lamoille County, it is uniquely flat which makes it accessible to all ages.

Lamoille County Towns have worked hard to make the use of the trail easy and fun. Through the dedication of local volunteers, and with help from grant funding agencies such as the Northern Borders Regional Commission, Cambridge, for example, built an award-winning trailhead facility that includes a railway-themed playground. Hyde Park designed a state-of-the-art wayfinding system to better connect the trail with the village center. Johnson’s trailhead kiosk, adjacent to the spectacularly back-dropped Old Mill Park, includes essential amenities such as a drinking fountain and a wheelchair accessible port-o-let.

My organization, Lamoille County Planning Commission, assisted the towns’ Rail Trail efforts by securing the funding, providing project management support, and creating maps and information brochures for the section of the trail between Cambridge and Morristown. The maps are available at all trailheads in Lamoille County and can also be downloaded here: https://www.lvrt.org/trail-maps. Copley Hospital is among generous sponsors that contributed to the printing of the brochures.

Last but not least, a big thank you belongs to the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers for overseeing the construction of the Rail Trail and spearheading a fundraising campaign to complete the full 93-miles of the trail between St. Johnsbury and Swanton.

The Developing Brain

By: Rebecca Copans

Lucy, 3 years old, heading to her first day of preschool.

As a parent, you want nothing more than for your child to be happy and healthy, to make friends, and to be accepted and integrated with their peers. When one of those pieces doesn’t fall into place as you would hope, you start asking questions.  You talk to your friends and neighbors, you ask for help from your primary care provider, and you call Lamoille County Mental Health Services.

From when she was a toddler, my daughter Lucy struggled with communicating her needs in a socially acceptable way.  As an infant, we taught her baby sign language and she was incredibly proficient in verbal language at an early age. Also from a young age, however, she was paralyzed by social pressures and extreme shyness. When she was three and entered preschool, it didn’t go well. A brand new teacher fresh out of college combined with some energetic kids is a recipe for chaos. Sprinkle in social, emotional and behavioral challenges, and it can be a recipe for disaster.

It all came to a head when we were invited to a birthday party in March, seven months into the program and I saw firsthand what she had been trying to tell me week after week. She would come home and say, “No one played with me today.” Or, “I don’t have any friends at school.”  Impossible, I thought. This is preschool, where they learn to be friends and care about each other equally—right? Wrong. It was like watching a car wreck. I was rooted to the spot, transfixed as parents chatted around me, oblivious to the scene that our children were playing out with each other. There were leaders and followers, cliques and bullying, and passive-aggressive exclusion that was closer to how seventh-grade girls infamously treat each other. This was a 4-year old’s birthday party. I was shocked. I have never felt so acutely that I failed as a parent. I didn’t listen to this tiny little person tell me over and over that she needed help figuring out how to navigate an incredibly stressful situation. It was like a language that everyone else could speak but her.

We asked for advice, I cried a whole lot, and ultimately we changed schools. Within three weeks of being enrolled in her new school, her teachers surged to action. We created a plan and began pulling in an incredible array of wrap-around services.They suggested screenings and behavioral interventions and within months and with some incredible people in her corner, things began slowly to improve, tiny step by tiny step.

From under a porch chair “fort”, 5 year old Lucy weaves a story for her brother Hazen.

Lucy, who suffers from a heady mix of debilitating shyness, ADHD and learning disabilities, was taught to scaffold mental prompts that allow most children seemingly automatically to wait for a turn at the paper towel dispenser (rather than pushing past to avoid having to think of something to say—and then say it—to the child blocking her way), to wait quietly in line to go outside for recess, to ask a teacher for help navigating a problem, or, the Everest: to ask “can I play?” Working with the behavioral interventionist, we created a playbook so that her family and her teachers were all working from the same place and using the same language.

Those early interventions helped to rewire her brain. She was given the tools to ask with her words rather than by hurling her body through space, and was able to integrate gracefully into playing with her peers by having a coach whispering prompts in her ear. As those prompts become ingrained, and with her incredible early educators mimicking the behavior interventionist’s language, the social fabric of her life became more normalized. By the time she entered Kindergarten, that coach standing by her shoulder was no longer needed, and in fact, her problem-solving skills became tools that her Kindergarten peers learned from Lucy.

When Lucy was a toddler, we thought that her actions were simply normal—we had nothing to compare it to. We thought parenting was simply the hardest job on the planet and didn’t realize how much help was available in the community. I didn’t know that our designated mental health agency or our local parent-child center offered resources for someone with Lucy’s developmental challenges, and for us, as parents raising her. I had the misconception that those agencies were reserved only for low-income Vermonters. We had no idea where to turn and grew increasingly panicked.

Studies from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University have shown that in the first years of life, a developing brain forms one million connections every second. By the age of by the age of five, 90% of the brain is developed. If we had waited until Lucy reached Kindergarten before putting behavior interventions in place, the work in bending her trajectory would have become much more difficult.

Lucy is far from alone on her path. A 2015 VT Digger story noted,

“Vermont has the highest rate of identifying students with emotional disturbance in the country. As a percentage of all students who received special education services in the 2012-13 school year in Vermont, about 16 percent were identified with an emotional disturbance, according to federal data. That is more than twice the national average of 6.3 percent.”

Some experts have argued that Vermont is simply doing a better job than other states at early identification and intervention.

During the 2016-2017 School Year, the School-Based Clinician Program at Lamoille County Mental Health supported over 120 children like Lucy from preschool-age to high school seniors. These dedicated individuals provided individual, group, and team support for students in their learning environments. School-Based Clinicians teach and practice mindfulness techniques with children, organize running and fitness groups, support skill development in the areas of self-advocacy, self-regulation, identifying and verbalizing emotional states, peer conflict resolution, verbal and non-verbal communication, and development of reciprocal play skills. They also facilitate training sessions for an increase in trauma-informed approaches in schools. These services are now available in 12 schools with a potential to serve over 200 children in the Lamoille Valley.

The Redwood Program at LCMHS contracts with school districts to offer wrap-around, full-year behavioral interventions for children. The children engaged in the program during the school year then attend a six-week summer camp that has precipitously lowered the crisis rate for kids returning to school in the fall. The Redwood Summer Camp is free for students enrolled in the Redwood Program and prevents a lot of kids from needing more expensive therapies. It maintains structure for the children during the summer and builds and strengthens the relationships between the kids and the incredible cohort of behavioral interventionists.

At 7 years old, Lucy is thriving with school-based supports.

The Access Program at LCMHS offers Community Skills Work (CSW), allowing children to connect with this service when in crisis. At its peak this year, the CSW Program served approximately 60 children at one time. In addition to weekly visits with children, the program also supports activities such as Wellness Camp, Children’s Emotional Wellness Day and the Resource Parent Curriculum Plus (RPC+) Children’s Group—an incredible program that supports placement stability for children in foster care. The CSW Program is connected with several local organizations, offering access to activities such as swimming, ice skating, gyms, game rooms, and State Parks.

During that first year of preschool, I was sure that Lucy would never be able to succeed socially in school.  Now as a second grader, she has wonderful friends, she is successful in dance and gymnastics, she is able to have playdates that don’t reliably devolve into tears, and on any given day a stranger in the grocery store wouldn’t know the challenges she faces—all things that would have seemed impossible four years ago. Without those early interventions, this trajectory would be heading in a very different direction. When parents are at a loss as to how to help their child, they need to know that they aren’t alone and that help can be found right here in Lamoille. Parenting is hard in the best of situations and if you are struggling, some days it just feels impossible. Support is just right down the street. If you or someone you know could use some help with a child who is struggling, don’t wait until it’s a crisis to ask for help.

If you or a child you know needs help, call Lamoille County Mental Health at (802) 888-5026 or visit www.lamoille.org.


Rebecca Copans has worked extensively in government affairs, public relations and communications. As a society, our greatest potential lies with our children. With this basic tenant firmly in mind, Rebecca worked most recently with the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children and now with Lamoille County Mental Health to secure a stronger foundation for all Vermont families. 

A graduate of the University of Vermont and Dartmouth College, Rebecca holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in globalization. Her thesis concentration was the history and societal use of language and its effect on early cognitive development. She lives in Montpelier with her husband and three children.