December 1st, 2012

Vermont cancer patient program provides vital support

By Janine Weisman

The holiday season – and all of its demands – can be stressful enough for healthy people. But for those facing a cancer diagnosis, it’s a particularly tough time of year. “At the holidays, I can tell you that the sad story is that cancer doesn’t rest,” says Kathleen McBeth, M.A., a licensed psychologist master, and coordinator of the Cancer Patient Support (CPS) Program in Burlington, Vermont. The independent, non-profit organization offers free comprehensive supportive services to cancer patients and their families throughout northern Vermont and upstate New York. Sadness, grief and anxiety are normal reactions for a newly diagnosed [More]

August 21st, 2015

Vermont case shines light on assisted outpatient treatment use

By Catherine Robertson Souter

A recent court case in Vermont may change the way the state can utilize involuntary outpatient commitment, also known as assisted outpatient treatment (AOT). Vermont’s Legal Aid Mental Health Law Project successfully argued a case in front of the state’s Supreme Court in April asking that a client be released from his AOT since the state had failed to prove that he will become a danger to himself or others in the near future. Across the United States, AOT has become more common in the past decade, with 45 states having some form of the law on their books. (Connecticut, [More]

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]

April 19th, 2020

Vermont mental health services for children doubles in last two decades

By Eileen Weber

In the past two decades, the number of young people 18 and under accessing mental health services has doubled. A recent report showed that one in three children in the state experience at least one “adverse childhood experience” before age nine. The report from Building Bright Futures, a non-profit organization in Vermont that monitors early care, health, and education systems for potential legislative policy improvements, explained that adverse childhood experiences, or ACES, typically involve living in a home that struggles to cover basic needs. It can be anything from divorce to living with someone who has a substance abuse disorder [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]