Meet Us

Thank you for taking an interest in getting to know us. We are a coalition of Burlington residents, businesses, school and college representatives, parents, youth, medical professionals, students, social service representatives, law enforcement officials, court representatives, and more who recognize that the damages of drugs, alcohol abuse, and tobacco affect us all and we work together to create a healthier environment in Burlington.

We believe that the most effective way to support community health and wellness is to bring the community together to address their own problems and enhance their strengths. We believe in evidence-based strategies and long-term strategic approaches. We intend to be in this with Burlington for the long haul, creating
healthy choices through a holistic approach to improving policy and practice, supporting statewide and Burlington specific education and awareness, and engaging young people in our work so they can be empowered to become leaders for prevention and wellness in their own community.
+ More about the history of BPHC…

Burlington Partnership for a Healthy Community (BPHC) evolved from the strong foundation built by the Chittenden County Substance Abuse Coalition (CCSAC) that began around 1999. In 2005, the Vermont Department of Health approached CCSAC to develop a coalition to impact substance abuse prevention, across all age groups, specific to the needs of the city of Burlington. In the fall of 2006, the decision was made by the CCSAC Board to focus their efforts on Burlington and the county coalition reformed as the Burlington Partnership for a Healthy Community.

BPHC maintained many of the same board and coalition members as a new mission and vision were identified and funding for continued sustainabilty was addressed. The board members hired their first staff member and spent significant time and effort to identify and include the appropriate people and organizations that needed to be involved in the work of the coalition for us to be successful in improving health outcomes in Burlington. BPHC applied for and was awarded funding in 2007 from the Vermont Department of Health to build capacity and completed a community needs assessment to help identify priorities. Through this funding and assessment we created our first strategic plan and have continued to evaluate and revise our interventions to support health and wellness in Burlington ever since!

Vision & Mission
Working together for a safe and healthy community; To positively impact the Burlington community by addressing the causes and consequences of substance abuse.

We focus on the following principles to guide our Mission:

+ Education and Public Awareness

We will inform our community of the dangers associated with misuse of alcohol and other drugs and promote the effectiveness of prevention strategies.
+ Collaboration

Every member of our community can be an effective part of prevention efforts. We will provide opportunities for individuals and organizations to work together to achieve mutual outcomes.
+ Advocacy

We will be a voice for prevention in Burlington. We will educate our communities and policy makers to make informed decisions to improve local and state practices, policies, and laws.
+ Services & Supports

We will implement evidence-based programs in collaboration with our partners that support community-wide improvements to health and wellness in Burlington.

Our long-term goals for Burlington

  • Reduce underage and high-risk drinking rates
  • Reduce youth prescription drug abuse/misuse rates
  • Reduce tobacco use rates
  • Reduce youth marijuana use rates
  • Increase opportunities for youth participation and leadership in community prevention strategies and activities

Download our strategic plan

Our Board of Directors
Megan Peek, Chair Health Education & Community Outreach Coordinator, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont
Michael Casarico, Secretary
Mitch Barron, Fiscal Agent Representative LICSW, LADC Director of Centerpoint Adolescent Treatment Services
Meghan O’Rourke Training Coordinator, CCTV Channel 17

Our Staff

Mariah Sanderson
Mariah Sanderson, Coalition Director

+ About Mariah

Mariah has lived in Vermont all her life and in the Burlington area for 19 years. She graduated from the University of Vermont in 2000 with degrees in Psychology and English. She has worked in the substance abuse field for the past 12 years as a counselor, case manager and most recently as the Director of BPHC. Working with adolescents in a substance abuse rehabilitation center and with addicted and mentally ill adults in the criminal justice system, Mariah saw first hand the pain and constant struggle of those who suffer with substance abuse addiction and their loved ones. She is passionate about building communities that provide youth and adults with the skills and environment to make healthy choices. Mariah and her husband currently live in Essex Junction with their two young boys, Noah and Samuel. They enjoy visiting local playgrounds in the summer and sledding hills in the winter. Call her any time with recommendations for new ones to check out!
Tara Rueckert
Tara Rueckert, Development & Youth Programming Coordinator

+ About Tara

Tara grew up in Kentucky, and currently lives in Colchester, VT with her husband and her extraordinarily lazy Cockapoo. She received her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology at Western Kentucky University (WKU) and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Transylvania University. Tara previously worked as suicide prevention coordinator at Morehead State University where she helped develop a comprehensive campus wellness program. Most recently, Tara was prevention coordinator with the Burlington School District. She is very excited to continue working with Burlington youth and families to promote community health and wellbeing.
Jessica Summer, Youth Project & Fundraising Coordinator

+ About Jessica

Jessica grew up in North Carolina and currently lives in Essex Junction. She earned a BA in English from Franklin Pierce University in 2009 and a Master of Library Science degree from North Carolina Central University in 2012. She loves working with youth and families and keeping things organized (which is a great fit for her position with us!). When she’s not in our office, Jessica can be found reading, cooking, or crafting with her husband and greyhound.
Emily Hecker
Emily Hecker, Communications & Marketing Coordinator

+ About Emily

Originally from Oklahoma, Emily graduated from Eugene Lang College in New York City with a customized degree in Art, Communications, and Documentary film making – which launched her career as a Culture Show producer for international news channel France 24 in Paris. After nearly a decade abroad she made her way back home, working in publishing with Oklahoma Magazine and later as Communications Director for the largest Unitarian Universalist congregation in the United States. After experiencing the satisfaction of working on several public health awareness campaigns she decided to devote her career to the field. She and her husband live in Milton with their three children, two dogs, and part-time cat. They all enjoy spending time outdoors exploring beautiful Vermont.
Balkisa Omar
Balkisa Omar, Youth Group Advisor

+ About Balkisa

Balkisa grew up and attended school right here in Burlington, Vermont. Driven to make a change in her local and global community, she dedicated much of her time in high school to activism and drug prevention. She recently graduated from Burlington High School and will be attending the University of Vermont while she works part-time with our middle and high school youth group as our Youth Group Advisor. For many years, Balkisa has used her skills in public speaking to speak up and to take action to combat the social injustices and support health and wellness in the Burlington community and beyond. She says she hopes this job will help her to engage more youth in doing that work with her to become leaders for change.

Registered Members
BPHC welcomes all organizations and individuals who want to partner with us to create a healthier environment in Burlington, Vermont. Learn more about membership and the special benefits of your annual registration.


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