A mental health services provider for Addison County raised its pay rate for employees on April 4. In an effort to make wages more competitive with other jobs in the community, Counseling Services of Addison County (CSAC) increased its wages to $17 per hour for direct entry staff, and between $51,000 and $59,000 for clinicians annually.
According to Rachel Lee Cummings, executive director of CSAC, this change comes at a time when the organization has been struggling to attract and retain staff. “We’ve really fallen behind on our ability to pay staff,” Cummings told The Campus.
CSAC is investing $1.7 million in the pay bump, with a specific focus on recruiting employees in developmental services, and clinicians in mental health.
Classified as a Designated Agency by the state of Vermont, CSAC’s funding is determined each year by the state legislature and the governor. While the state government decides Medicaid rates, Designated Agencies like CSAC have been chronically underfunded in recent years, Cummings said.
According to the State of Vermont website, “Designated Agencies are private, non-profit service providers that are responsible for ensuring needed services are available through program delivery, local planning, service coordination, and monitoring outcomes within their region.”
CSAC works closely with law enforcement and other community organizations to provide mental health and developmental health services to Addison County.
One of the largest employers in Addison County, CSAC employs between 310 and 320 people when fully staffed. Staff are split roughly evenly between developmental services and mental health service providers. Since the pandemic began, though, the organization has been suffering a 10–12% vacancy in employees.
“We’ve really struggled throughout the pandemic,” Cummings said. “It’s felt like a crisis at certain points.”
Part of the problem, Cummings explained, is that employees can leave developmental service positions to work at a place like Hannaford, and earn more money in a less stressful environment.
The organization is dipping into its reserves to fund the pay bump, but Cummings said she believes it will be worthwhile in the long-term to increase competitiveness. In addition, CSAC received an unprecedented 8% increase in Medicaid rates from the legislature this year, which will be helpful in financing the change.
“We’re really feeling positive about the legislature giving us a pretty significant increase [in Medicaid rates] for once,” Cummings added.
Since implementing the wage raise in early April, the organization has already been able to fill some of its vacant positions. This includes hiring direct service professionals and a service coordinator in the developmental services division, a clinician in the Adult Mental Health division, staff in the Youth and Family division, and staff at the residential homes across the county.
The organization is still struggling to hire staff for the emergency response team, and they are exploring ways to entice people to work in mental health, Cummings said.
CSAC serves over 2,000 residents of Addison County each year, across a number of locations in the town of Middlebury. Located at 89 Main Street, across from Otter Creek Bakery & Deli, the main building’s services include Adult Addiction Recovery, Adult Mental Health, Adult Substance Use, Community Rehabilitation and Treatment, and Psychiatric Services.
The 67 Catamount Park building provides Youth and Family services, while 109 Catamount Park is used for Developmental Services, Employment Services and Administrative Offices. The newest building, located at 17 Court Street, is known as Evergreen and the Center. This site has group classes and drop-in day support.
“[These buildings] were built because of huge and generous community support,” Cummings said.
CSAC’s principal services include its Adult Mental Health Services, which are comprised of community rehabilitation and treatment (for adults coping with severe psychiatric conditions), outpatient services and eldercare for adults over age 60. Its developmental services include community associates, for residents with developmental disabilities; support for traumatic brain injury patients; and adult family care (in-home care similar to nursing home services).
It also has an Adult Stabilization Program (ASP), which aims to support Addison County residents in solving problems and developing realistic, achievable goals, along with employment services, and Youth and Family Services — therapy and community services to children and their families.
Because CSAC employs so many people in the county, Cummings emphasized that this raise in wages will have positive effects across the county. “These are dollars going right into peoples’ pockets,” she said.
Maggie Reynolds '24 is the Senior Local Editor.
She previously served as Local Editor and Staff Writer. Maggie spent this past summer in Vermont, covering arts & culture for Seven Days VT. She also interned as a news reporter with the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, NY during summer 2021.
Maggie is studying History with minors in Spanish and Political Science. She is also a member of the Women's Swimming & Diving team.