NEWS: Sanders Holds Student Town Meetings in Rutland and Bennington, Meets with Veterans, Local Officials, and Health Care Workers

BURLINGTON, Vt., Oct. 12 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today held student town meetings in Rutland and Bennington to speak with students at Rutland High School and Mount Anthony Union High School. In addition, Sanders made several visits to meet with veterans from the Dodge House, the Bennington Veterans Outreach Center, and the Vermont Veterans’ Home. He also met with health care professionals at the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington and the Battenkill Valley Health Center, as well as local officials in both Rutland and Bennington. Find photos from the day HERE.

The Q&A discussion at both town meetings focused on issues facing students on the local, state, and national level, and how the federal government can best address the needs of young people. At Rutland High School, the estimated 250 students in attendance spoke with Sanders on the economy, climate change, health care, student debt, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, disinformation in social media, and staffing shortages in critical health care professions. At Mount Anthony Union High School, with about 450 students in attendance, the town meeting touched on worker’s rights, abortion rights, income inequality, the minimum wage, health care, inflation, marijuana legalization, the opioid crisis, climate change, student debt and college affordability, immigration, and the serious impact of the pandemic on mental health.

“Hearing from these young Vermonters today gives me a lot of hope,” said Sanders. “As a state and a country, we face some terrible and difficult crises. But this next generation is paying attention. They are standing up, they are fighting for their communities, and making their voices heard. And that is no small thing. They should be deeply proud of who they are and I am glad to see them get involved in the political process. Together we are going to build a state and nation to be proud of and protect our planet for future generations.”

Sanders continued, “Vermont veterans, local officials, and health care workers are invaluable members of our communities. It is my belief that every member of the United States Congress must understand that we cannot turn our backs on the people who put their lives on the line to protect our communities, whether that is overseas in battle or at home during a terrible pandemic. I want to thank the Dodge House, the Bennington Veterans Outreach Center, the Vermont Veterans’ Home, the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, and the Battenkill Valley Health Center for meeting with me and for all the work they do. I look forward to taking what I heard today back to Washington to ensure that Vermont veterans and health care workers get the support they need and have earned ten times over.”

“The students and staff were excited to welcome Senator Sanders to Rutland High School today,” said Greg Schillinger, Principal at Rutland High School. “The Senator engaged in a dialogue with the students and they had the opportunity to ask him about such topics as health care costs, income inequality, and climate change. Students commented that they appreciated his responses which were engaging and substantive.”

“Our health system appreciates Senator Sanders being an unrelenting champion of the preservation and expansion of primary care services in the state of Vermont and the United States,” stated Tom Dee, President and CEO of Southwestern Vermont Health Care. “He is an ally for rural health care and realizes that primary care is its centerpiece throughout our country.”

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to host Senator Sanders and his team at our health center,” said Kayla Davis, MSW, Co-Executive Director of Battenkill Valley Health Center. “We are proud of the ways we have grown to support the evolving needs in our community over the past eight years, but know there is still much more work to be done. Our community still has limited access to primary care, mental health care, and dental care; we are committed to expanding access to all of these services in our region. We are thankful for the advocacy the Senator provides the health center program; he truly understands the importance of equitable health care for all.”

Said Melissa Jackson, Chief Executive Officer of Vermont Veterans’ Home, “The Vermont Veterans’ Home is always happy to have a visit from Senator Sanders. We appreciate his continued support of the Home, its mission and our Veterans.”

Bennington town officials and police in both Bennington and Rutland told Sanders of the struggles their communities are experiencing. In Rutland, the leaders of Project VISION – the city’s organization geared toward addressing the underlying contributors to crime – told Sanders that while they have made some strides, mental health and housing remain major challenges. In Bennington, local officials and police talked about some of the same issues, highlighting that housing shortages affects people of all income levels and make it hard to attract needed teachers, first responders, and health professionals to the community.

In working to pass the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Sanders led in delivering historic funding to Vermont schools, including helping schools reopen safely and expanding crucial summer and after school opportunities for students. These efforts were informed by virtual town halls Sanders held with high school students from across Vermont, who spoke openly and clearly about the struggles they were facing and help they needed. In 2021, Sanders also introduced legislation to address the major health care staffing crisis, as well as two pieces of legislation that would ensure universal dental care coverage for all veterans through the VA and make it simpler for veterans to access high quality health care at VA hospitals and primary care clinics.