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]

July 1st, 2010

Vermont Senate nixes proposal to track free drug samples

By Nan Shnitzler

Last November, the Vermont Department of Mental Health faced budget cuts in excess of $20 million for the 2011 fiscal year. When the legislature adjourned its session in the wee hours May 13, the cut had been trimmed to about $3 million. Credit a slightly improved economy, a few more federal dollars and a state budget approach called Challenges for Change. Challenges for Change is legislation designed to fund desirable outcomes by focusing on efficiencies rather than eliminating services and hiking taxes. On paper, it saved nearly $38 million of a $150 million budget deficit in a total state budget [More]

August 18th, 2017

Vermont to compensate for first responders’ mental health issues

By Catherine Robertson Souter

Although one of the smallest states, especially by population, Vermont has taken the lead in mental health public policy. With a multi-partisan bill that was signed into law by Gov. Phil Scott, (R), the state became the first in the nation to provide coverage under workers’ compensation for mental health issues and illnesses. First introduced by Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D-Orange) and representatives from the Republican, Independent and Progressive parties in February, the bill became law as of July 1. Opponents raised concerns over the ultimate cost of the bill. According to the state’s Joint Fiscal Office, the law should cost [More]

May 28th, 2019

Vermont’s medication assisted treatment program shows encouraging results

By Catherine Robertson Souter

For the first time since 1918 during WWI when a flu pandemic swept the nation, life expectancy in the U.S. has dropped for each of the last three years. Suicide and drug overdose are edging the country downward. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 72,000 drug overdoses in 2017, up from 63,000 in 2016. New England has seen its fair share of the crisis, with New Hampshire among the worst in the county with a rate of 34 deaths per 100,000 in 2017, more than double the national average of 14.6. Vermont saw a rate of 20 [More]