VCPI Welcomes a new Executive Director!

By Rita Johnson  |  November 7, 2016  |  Featured News

Meet the New Executive Director

VCPI is thrilled to welcome Karen Crowley, who started in her new role as Executive Director of the Vermont Cooperative for Practice Improvement & Innovation (VCPI) on October 17, 2016. In addition to offering her a warm welcome, VCPI thought it would be an excellent opportunity to interview Karen and learn more about who she is, her background, and what she brings to the Cooperative.  What follows is our interview.

A woman dressed in a bright teal-colored sweater stands and greets me with a warm handshake. Karen is both professional and confident in her demeanor, yet maintains a level of warmth and engagement that immediately puts one at ease. She is excited to discuss VCPI and spoke with me about how she envisions the cooperative living up to its name by working cooperatively toward achieving the goals its members collaboratively establish. She believes, “VCPI will continue to grow and is committed to helping lead the way towards increased membership and financial strength.”

Leading is nothing new to Karen. She has extensive experience working with diverse groups of stakeholders to put ideas into practice. For example, as an early member of the implementation team of the Integrating Family Services initiative, Karen worked with multiple internal and external stakeholders to design an integrated service system for children and families. This complex initiative hit many obstacles and the committee members would frequently wonder aloud if the goal was realistic and consider that, perhaps, the work might just be too hard.  Karen would ask how, as professionals, the team could say our system is too complex to work within, and yet ask Vermont’s children and families to do just that in order to access the services they need.  “It’s easy to see how simply reminding them of their shared vision of improving the lives of families and children was enough to get the group to charge ahead toward success,” she reports. Karen is clearly proud of the work done as part of this team and the progress the initiative has achieved.

Other organizations and initiatives led by Karen include the implementation of Act One, a legislative effort to mandate system-wide focus on the prevention of childhood sexual abuse, which resulted in materials used in schools and child care centers throughout Vermont; and the NIATx initiative at the Vermont Department of Health, Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs (ADAP), which achieved success by decreasing waiting lists and increasing access to services. She then expanded on this work and adapted the model to become AIM - the Agency of Human Service’s signature process improvement methodology. Her work as Director of the System of Care at the Family Services division included a leadership role in the transformation of the Woodside program to become a true treatment facility.

These are just some of the examples of the challenging work she has taken on during her career. As Karen talks about her experiences in these efforts, it is clear she has used her positive outlook and steadfastness to approach challenges, and there have, of course, been many throughout her years in human services work. Her obvious and passionate belief in the skills and abilities of both the individuals and families we serve and those of professional team members, coupled with her ability to remain curious about alternative approaches, has consistently led projects to success.

Karen’s leadership skills have been developed in numerous ways. She is the proud graduate of the Snelling Center for Government’s Leadership Institute. Prior to that she graduated from the Agency of Human Services Leadership Development Program and then conducted that program for others at the Agency.  Karen shares that she values data driven improvement efforts such as continuous quality improvement (CQI) and Results Based Accountability (RBA).  She is committed to being strategic in her approach and building on VCPI’s current success. “Using established mechanisms to remain on track and bring VCPI committees and sub-committees together to expand upon what VCPI offers its growing membership are my top goals,” she says.

She is an executive director who does not see herself directing so much as facilitating an environment that allows true collaboration, inclusive of all aspects of Vermont’s System of Care, and brings the best ideas to the forefront.  When it comes to change, she knows what she is talking about as she is a nationally certified Change Leader via NIATx and is coming to us from her position as Organizational and Human Resources Director at the Agency of Human services. In addition to organizational change, she also knows a few things about personal change from her 10 years as a private practitioner and almost as many years in residential settings, working with people struggling with substance use and related challenges.

Personal experiences also play a big role in what drives Karen to want to make the service system the best possible. She has both fostered and adopted via the Vermont child welfare system and has worked to ensure the needs of her children and family are met with the best possible services. She seeks out supports that share her values of integration and the belief that everyone can grow and change. Additionally, she has represented the stakeholder role of family member in various situations. She is a grandmother to a six-year old girl and a four-year old boy who she reports, “are wonderful reminders that play and fun are essential.” Play is also a large factor in her bee-keeping and honey-making business as well, now in its fourth year and expanding.

Running a business is not new for Karen. Besides her private practice, she helps her husband, a Coastguard Certified Captain, manage a sailing business that offers charters and lessons. Her business experience will be extremely useful in managing the financial side of VCPI as well as knowing how to market effectively and maintain relationships with various stakeholders in the public and non-profit worlds.

While Karen appears to easily talk to anyone about anything, she certainly understands the finite nature of time and prefers meaningful conversations with people versus small talk. When she needs to replenish her energy and spirit, she can be found spending time alone or among her bees. She is eager to get started in this important role and looks forward to meeting all the current members and reaching out to many new members. Please feel free to contact Karen at with questions or ideas at any time.

  • As reported by VCPI Steering Committee Member, Laura Flint, with the Vermont Department of Mental Health.


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