News Releases

August 17, 2018

Governor Announces Membership of his Community Violence Prevention Task Force

Governor Phil Scott today has announced the appointment of 19 Vermonters to serve on his Community Violence Prevention Task Force. The Governor created the Task Force in Executive Order 03-18 as part of the Administration's broader efforts to ensure Vermont continues to be one of the safest states in the country.

"This Task Force will undertake important and difficult work to examine how we can work together to reduce violence in our society, keep kids safe in our schools and help all feel more secure in our communities," said Scott. "Our goal must be to find real solutions -- steps that will make our schools and communities safer by addressing the underlying factors that lead to violence."

The group is comprised of individuals from state government and the private sector, and appointees to-date include:

* Melissa Bailey, Commissioner, Vermont Department of Mental Health (co-chair) (Bolton)

* Dr. Dan Barkhuff, Emergency Medicine, UVM Medical Center (co-chair) (South Burlington)

* David Baker, Superintendent, Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union (Danville)

* Dr. Rebecca Bell, Pediatric Critical Care, UVM Medical Center (Burlington)

* William Bohynak Orange County Sheriff (Randolph)

* Cara Cookson, Public Policy Director and Victim Assistance Program Coordinator, Vermont Center of Crime Victims Services (Jericho)

* Amanda Crispel, Professor of Game Production Management, Champlain College (Williston)

* Rob Evans, Vermont School Safety Liaison (Essex Junction)

* Heidi Gortakowski, Director of Performance Management, Vermont Department of Health (Waterbury)

* Jack Helm, retired Colorado police officer, daycare provider (Rutland)

* Victor Hinojos, Norwich University student (Bristol)

* Andrew Laing, Chief Data Officer, Vermont Agency of Digital Services (Burlington)

* Danielle Lindley, LICSW, Division Director, Children, Youth & Family Services, Northwest Counseling and Support Services (St. Albans)

* Michael Manley, Captain, Vermont State Police (Waterbury)

* George Merkel, Vergennes Police Chief (New Haven)

* Catherine Simonson, LICSW, Chief Client Services Officer, Howard Center (Colchester)

* Rory Thibault, Washington County States Attorney (Cabot)

* Matt Valerio, Vermont Defender General (Proctor)

* Robert Walsh, Psychologist, College of St. Joseph Traumatology Institute (Brandon)

"Dan and I appreciate the willingness of such a diverse group of people to come together and bring their expertise to the table," said Mental Health Commissioner Melissa Baily, a co-chair of the Task Force. "Our goal is to make effective recommendations to the Governor to address underlying causes of violence and strengthen our communities."

"Our work is to create opportunities for safer communities," said Dr. Daniel Barkhuff, Task Force co-chair and UVM Medical Center physician. "This will be difficult work, but critically important, and we appreciate being given this vital charge."

The Task Force, which held its first meeting on Wednesday, is charged with:

* Assessing high-quality primary research, including evidence-based Vermont data to the extent it is available, regarding the underlying causes of violent behavior in communities. At the request of the House of Representatives by way of Resolution H.R. 23, this review will also consider the connection between excessive video game playing and the propensity to engage in gun violence;

* Identifying best practices for schools and communities to prevent violent behavior including, but not limited to, identifying warning signs and how to report them, recommending ways to improve prevention and reporting of bullying and harassment and closing the operational gaps among the Department for Children and Families, the Department of Mental Health, the Agency of Education, law enforcement and our schools;

* Identifying opportunities to strengthen existing support systems to ensure every school and community has a local rapid reaction/early intervention team involving educators, mental health/social service professionals and law enforcement when concerning behavioral issues are identified;

* Reviewing opportunities to expand school safety prevention and preparedness capacity in the Agency of Education and the Department of Public Safety and supporting the work of the Vermont School Safety Center;

* Evaluating the adequacy of protections for individuals (students and adults) reporting threats, including consideration of shield laws;

* Exploring the feasibility of stronger open source intelligence gathering by the Vermont Intelligence Center and the cybersecurity center with Norwich University, once established; and

* Reviewing existing state health, mental health, education and criminal laws, regulations, policies and programs, and propose appropriate legislative changes, including changes to eliminate redundancy and break down barriers faced by communities and schools in coordinating action with the State.

Preliminary findings and recommendations will be submitted to the Governor by December 1, 2018.


Rebecca Kelley, Office of the Governor


Source: Office of the Governor
Last Updated at: August 17, 2018 09:19:01