Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

New Employees Increase Capacity for Prevention Work

by | Nov 2, 2023 | In the News

ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (November 11, 2023) –To promote health and prevent substance misuse, the Substance Misuse Prevention Department at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH) is excited to share that it has hired two new staff members.

NVRH Substance Misuse Prevention Specialist Desiree Kepper (left) started in October and will be supporting the work of the Northeast Prevention Coalition (NPC), a coalition that represents Northeast Kingdom communities in support of healthy choices. As part of this coalition, Kepper will also facilitate its tobacco sub-committee.

Kepper, who grew up in St. Johnsbury and graduated from Lyndon State College in 2016, has experience working with youth and adults in a community mental health setting. She also has robust experience integrating vulnerable populations into the community.

“Every human, in my experience, is capable of tremendous perseverance and that alone motivates me both personally and professionally,” Kepper said. “In this role, I hope to build on the extraordinary progress my predecessors made and continue to find opportunities to support long-term, sustainable change. If nothing else, I hope my team is able to ‘plant trees, under whose shade we do not expect to sit.’”

NVRH Prevention Coalition Coordinator Susanne Lesnik-Emas will lead the work of the NPC as well as the monthly meetings. Lesnik-Emas has over 25 years of experience working for non-profits. She has also served as a full-time assistant professor at Temple University’s College of Public Health in Philadelphia for 10 years, where she taught collaboratively within the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences.

Lesnik-Emas has significant experience in program development, planning, facilitation and evaluation. She is a specialist in transitional and home-based services for individuals with disabilities and at-risk behaviors as well as an expert in areas of support that focus on communication skills, behaviors and self-determination.

“Prevention is difficult for us to visualize because our current healthcare culture can often be reactive,” Lesnik-Emas said. “Additionally, prevention is linked to cultural norms; what we found acceptable preventive actions in rural communities in the 1990’s may be seen as lax or overprotective in 2023. We are fortunate that our community has identified the need for greater attention to the prevention arena.”

Kepper and Lesnik-Emas join NVRH Substance Misuse Prevention Director Carolyn Towne and Substance Misuse Prevention Coordinator Cheryl Chandler in their efforts to make the Northeast Kingdom a healthier place to live for all.

“I’m excited to have a highly qualified team to support prevention of substance misuse and promote healthy lifestyles in our community,” Towne said. “With increased capacity, we will be able to promote prevention in more spaces, expand our reach, and increase our impact.”

To learn more about NVRH Substance Misuse Prevention, visit