July 1st, 2012

Vermont decreasing use of restraints during transport

By Pamela Berard

The state of Vermont is renewing efforts to decrease the use of restraints on mentally ill residents who are involuntarily put in state care. State law – passed in 2003 and updated in 2005 – declares that residents should be transported with “the least restrictive means necessary.” Despite the law, data compiled by the Department of Mental Health shows that the use of metal restraints is static. They were used for involuntary transport of adults 58 percent of the time in 2011 (59 percent in 2010). For “secure” transports (transporting by uniformed sheriff’s services), metal restraints were used 73 percent [More]

May 1st, 2016

Vermont examining its residential facility needs

By Pamela Berard

A report recently presented to the Vermont state legislature outlines preliminary recommendations related to the development of a new secure residential facility to address the needs of individuals with mental illness. Frank Reed, commissioner, Department of Mental Health, Agency of Human Services (AHS), prepared the “Report on Secure Residential Facility: Plan for Siting and Design” in accordance with “Act No. 26: An Act Relating to Capital Construction and State Bonding,” in which the Secretary of Human Services was tasked with conducting an examination of the needs of the AHS. The report considered siting and designing of a secure residential facility, [More]

March 1st, 2013

Vermont grapples with budgetary priorities

By Janine Weisman

The Vermont Department of Mental Health’s current fiscal year $174 million budget represented a 15 percent increase to enhance community services in the only state which until recently had no government-operated psychiatric beds. It wasn’t enough. Developing a strong community mental health system will require another $20 million, Finance and Management Commissioner Jim Reardon informed lawmakers during January mid-year budget adjustment discussions. Expenditures included mobile crisis teams to monitor patients at risk and new beds in transitional housing. Much of that increase is offset by decreases in other departments so the general fund impact is about $4.5 million. “If we [More]

March 1st, 2014

Vermont mayors cite mental health reform as priority

By Janine Weisman

The mayors of eight Vermont communities have named mental health reform their top legislative priority for 2014 to draw attention to the plight of emergency rooms and law enforcement agencies across the state coping with rising demand for services. “There is a fairly acute problem in this area right now. We see that in the strain of law enforcement. We see it in the strain on our hospitals,” says Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger. “We have seen some unfortunate events, very high profile events, that have affected Vermonters over the last year and there is an active policy discussion going on [More]

June 1st, 2017

Vermont moves to cover PTSD for first responders

By Janine Weisman

Legislation to provide workers compensation benefits for first responders who suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder in the line of duty has passed both the Vermont House of Representatives and Senate. Now awaiting Vermont Gov. Phil Scott’s signature as of New England Psychologist’s press deadline, the effort has made its way further than similar proposals that appear to have stalled this year in Connecticut and Florida. Vermont House Bill 197, introduced by Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D-Bradford), deemed PTSD compensable under the state’s workers compensation act for police officers, firefighters, and rescue or ambulance workers diagnosed up to three years after retirement. [More]

September 22nd, 2011

Vermont on the road to universal health care

By Nan Shnitzler

On May 26, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed into law a landmark healthcare bill designed to control escalating healthcare costs, expand insurance coverage to all residents and create the first publicly-funded, single-payer insurance system in the country. “This law recognizes an economic and fiscal imperative, that we must control the growth in health care costs that are putting families at economic risk and makes it harder for small employers to do business,” said the Democratic governor at the bill signing ceremony as he turned campaign promise into reality. The law does three main things, says Cassandra Gekas, M.S., health care [More]

March 7th, 2018

Vermont prison complex meant to accommodate multiple populations

By Janine Weisman

Fixing the mental health system is a key part of a plan Vermont Gov. Phil Scott’s administration introduced to the State Legislature in January to build a 925-bed prison complex in northwest part of the state over 10 years. Fifty forensic beds — 20 reserved for hospital level care and 30 for outpatient or residential level care — are part of the $150 million corrections campus outlined in the Agency of Human Services (AHS) Report on Major Facilities. AHS oversees both the Department of Corrections and the Department of Mental Health. The plan to create the large complex in Franklin [More]

August 22nd, 2014

Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital opens

By Rivkela Brodsky

Almost three years after Vermont’s antiquated psychiatric hospital in Waterbury was forced to close because of flooding from Hurricane Irene, the state held a ribbon cutting for its new $28 million, almost 47,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art psychiatric facility in Berlin. The Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital opened July 1 and is expected to be at capacity at the end of August. “I think that just walking into the building…it gives so much a sense of comfort and being welcoming than the old hospital did,” says Frank Reed, Vermont’s deputy commissioner for mental health. “You can immediately see into the courtyard areas. You can [More]

May 13th, 2018

Vermont searches for solutions to increase bed capacity

By Janine Weisman

The Vermont House of Representatives Committee on Health Care has already come out against funding a temporary 12-bed forensic unit at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in Gov. Phil Scott’s proposed fiscal 2019 state budget. But during the appropriation process in early April, Senate members appeared more receptive toward the facility proposed to alleviate the demand on emergency rooms and psychiatric facilities around the state. “That’s a showdown between the Senate and the House that we get caught in the middle of,” said Department of Mental Health (DMH) Commissioner Melissa Bailey. “They’ve got to figure out where they’re going to [More]

April 1st, 2015

Vermont seeks to bridge gap between mental, physical health

By Susan Gonsalves

Vermont’s focus on integrating mental and physical health along with an eye toward Adverse Childhood Experiences informed practices has led to pilot projects across the state and more in the works. Since last fall, a number of volunteer groups have been looking at childhood trauma and discussing ways to better bring its impact on overall health to the forefront. A follow up video conference is scheduled in April to see what progress has been made. “It bridges a gap that we weren’t bridging,” said Kathleen Hentcy, M.S., mental health and health care integration director at Vermont’s Department of Mental Health, [More]