Thursday August 23, 2018
Governor Phil Scott announced on Aug. 15 the appointment of 19 Vermonters to serve on his Community Violence Prevention Task Force, including Dr. Daniel Barkhuff from South Burlington. Barkhuff will serve as co-chair of the task force with Vermont Department of Mental Health Commissioner Melissa Bailey.
Created in Executive Order 03-18, the governor’s office stated that the task force is “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,” Scott said. “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.”
Barkhuff is Doctor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Vermont (UVM) Medical Center. A graduate of Harvard Medical School, he completed his residency at the University Of New Mexico School of Medicine. A former Navy Seal, Barkhuff served eight years on SEAL teams as a platoon commander. He has completed tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa. More recently, Barkhuff became the founder and president of Veterans for Responsible Leadership (VFRL.org).
“Our work is to create opportunities for safer communities,” Barkhuff said of the task force, “This will be difficult work, but critically important, and we appreciate being given this vital charge.”
Co-chair Melissa Bailey said Barkhuff is the right person for the job.
“Dan and I appreciate the willingness of such a diverse group of people to come together and bring their expertise to the table,” she said. “Our goal is to make effective recommendations to the governor to address underlying causes of violence and strengthen our communities.”
The task force is comprised of individuals from state government and the private sector. The other appointees are David Baker, Superintendent, Windsor Southeast Supervisory Union; Dr. Rebecca Bell, Pediatric Critical Care, UVM Medical Center; William Bohynak, Orange County Sheriff; Cara Cookson, Public Policy Director and Victim Assistance Program Coordinator, Vermont Center of Crime Victims Services; Amanda Crispel, Professor of Game Production Management, Champlain College; Rob Evans, Vermont School Safety Liaison; Heidi Gortakowski, Director of Performance Management, Vermont Department of Health; Jack Helm, retired Colorado police officer, daycare provider; Victor Hinojos, Norwich University student; Andrew Laing, Chief Data Officer, Vermont Agency of Digital Services; Danielle Lindley, LICSW, Division Director, Children, Youth and Family Services, Northwest Counseling and Support Services; Michael Manley, Captain, Vermont State Police; George Merkel, Vergennes Police Chief; Catherine Simonson, LICSW, Chief Client Services Officer, Howard Center; Rory Thibault, Washington County States Attorney; Matt Valerio, Vermont Defender General; and Robert Walsh, Psychologist, College of St. Joseph Traumatology Institute.
The Community Violence Prevention Task Force is charged with the following duties:
• 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, finally, 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.