Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) visited five locations in Addison County and Rutland County on Wednesday, May 6: two federally qualified health centers, a parent child center, a high school, and a medical center.
“I have looked forward to traveling around the state and speaking with Vermonters in person again for a very long time. This past year has been incredibly difficult for all of us. But especially for our youth, working families, educators, front line workers and health care providers,” said Sanders. “It is very clear that many organizations throughout Vermont stepped up in a big way and did excellent work to ensure they continued serving our people. I’m very grateful that I had the opportunity to hear from some of these critical organizations in Bristol, Middlebury, and Rutland. I have no doubt that we can continue to work together to meet the needs of Vermonters and move our state forward.”
Sanders’ first stop was at Mountain Health Center in Bristol, then the Addison County Parent Child Center in Middlebury. Then Sanders headed to Rutland where he stopped at Community Health, which provides care to over three-quarters of all Rutland County residents. During the meeting, staff discussed the need for dentists and mental health providers, ideas to improve telemedicine services, and their hope to expand transportation services.
Donald Reuther, CEO of Community Health, spoke about how ongoing federal support helps the center expand its operations and care for more Vermonters. He said, “That support is allowing us to build an integrated collaborative delivery system where patients are guided through their healthcare journey. That support allows us to address the gaps in service in the community, and it allows us to bring healthcare to where it is needed in small-town schools and into patient’s homes.”
Sanders, who has held several virtual events with Vermont students in recent months, then met with administrators, teachers, staff and students at Rutland High School. During a tour and classroom visits, Sanders acknowledged the unique challenges young people have faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, thanked teachers and staff for their hard work throughout the year, and discussed the $71 million in federal education funding that is now available statewide to support students and expand afterschool and summer opportunities. Bill Olsen, Superintendent of the Rutland City Public Schools, said, “Not only will these federal funds support the efforts of our staff in addressing the effects of the global pandemic, but they afford our schools an incredible opportunity over the next three years to build upon an educational system that benefits all of our students and our community.”
Sanders’ last stop of the day was at the Rutland Regional Medical Center. Sanders was greeted by dozens of providers who have worked tirelessly to care for Vermonters throughout the pandemic, met with staff and providers and toured the hospital’s emergency department. They discussed how the hospital used federal emergency funds to continue their vital operations over the last year, as well as the challenges on the front lines of health care, including a nursing shortage and the difficulty attracting providers to rural areas.
Claudio Fort, president and CEO of the Rutland Regional Medical Center, said of the visit, “I was proud to share how the Rutland Regional staff responded to the pandemic. We could not have responded as well as we have without the Senator’s support of the funding needed for our hospital to stay open and responsive during the pandemic. We appreciate his commitment to helping us in the long recovery from this unprecedented global health crisis.”
At each stop, Sanders thanked the organizations and meeting participants for their informative insights and dedication to serving Vermonters. “There is no doubt that we’ve made significant progress on many issues, but we have a lot of work to do,” said Sanders. “We need to deal with childcare affordability and provider pay, the health care workforce shortage, mental health care accessibility, affordable housing and transportation infrastructure. And we’ve got to make sure we’re supporting the social, emotional, and educational needs of our young people, who are the future of this country. I look forward to working with Vermonters across our state, with the president, and Congress to finally address the crises that have been neglected for so long,” said Sanders.