May 1st, 2012

Brattleboro Retreat undergoes $12 million upgrade

The Brattleboro Retreat is in the midst of a $12 million upgrade, which includes unit renovations and the addition of an electronic medical records system and the Omnicell automated pharmacy delivery system.

Renovations will continue this year and through 2013 and should see the addition of 15 new beds, for a total of 125 beds, says Robert E. Simpson Jr., MPH, DSW, president and CEO since 2006.

Simpson says the Brattleboro Retreat will likely add about 35 additional employees to its team of about 640 during the upgrades, which include expansion of services, improvements to existing clinical areas and a new inpatient program for patients formerly served at Vermont State Hospital.

“When I came, we were an organization that was trying to decide what to do, how to grow,” Simpson says. What started as some cosmetic upgrades to the buildings and campus has transformed into plans for a complete renovation to every unit.

“We’re going to grow and build this hospital and make it as state-of-the-art as it has been, but make all the units meet modern day and beyond standards for the best psychiatric care you can get,” he says.

The Omnicell system is scheduled to be in place this spring; and the electronic health record system – by the end of this year. The technology will take the center to a new level, he says, making it easier for staff to manage and review documentation, incidents and patient histories and to track and cross-reference.

The Brattleboro Retreat also has a new unit for acute care in the works. After Hurricane Irene forced the closure of the 54-bed Vermont State Hospital last year, the Brattleboro Retreat took in a number of patients who had been at the facility. In April, the governor signed a bill giving the go-ahead to a new, decentralized system of mental health care in the state, which includes 14 acute care beds at the Brattleboro Retreat. Work on the new adult intensive unit is scheduled to begin in May and finish by November, according to Simpson. The state may benefit from FEMA emergency funds to help pay for those renovations.

In addition to all of the units, renovations include the pharmacy, cafeteria and grounds, including a secure outdoor space for patients to leave the inpatient unit.

Among recent projects – the center re-opened its LGBT adult inpatient program this spring; and the Children’s Inpatient Program re-opened in January following an extensive remodeling project for the unit, which cares for children ages 5-12. New elements include an alternative low stimulation area and a host of safety features ranging from slanted window sills to safety ceiling tiles.

Simpson says the Brattleboro Retreat is continuing to look at ways to expand or improve programs, such as in its young adult (ages 18-26) unit and autism program. They are also considering the fact that youth today are “technology era” kids. “So we have to think about, ‘How do we incorporate technology into the care of these kids? How do we incorporate that into thinking about treatment?’”

The Brattleboro Retreat expanded its Uniformed Service Program (USP), which assists combat veterans, fire fighters, emergency service personnel, police and correctional officers suffering from duty-related trauma and associated conditions. The USP program had seen steady growth in the past two years, and a 28-day track was added to an existing short-term component. New trauma services include neuro-feedback, exposure therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.

The Brattleboro Retreat has also been offering leadership training to employees. “We’ve designed a special program to train all of our leaders – including medical staff, nurse leaders, directors, etc., – in how to lead in nine core topic areas,” he says. It’s been very effective at helping clinicians think about leadership and pass those skills on to other employees. The program has also helped in recruiting new employees.

By Pamela Berard

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