May 1st, 2016

Brattleboro Retreat seeks state funding for new adolescent unit

When the Brattleboro Retreat was founded in 1834 with a $10,000 bequest from Anna Marsh, the facility served, and continues to serve, a range of patients from children and adolescents to adults.

In the ensuing years, the Retreat has undergone several renovations and upgrades; most recently the adult unit received a much-needed refurbishing. The adolescent unit, although it has been upgraded a number of times, is next on the project list.

Peter Albert, LSW, senior vice president for government relations at the Brattleboro Retreat, reported that the facility, which has seven inpatient units and serves 14 counties in Vermont, has made renovations when funds have been available.

“We use these units as a clinical tool and recognize we need major renovations to the child and adolescent unit,” he said.

Albert pointed out that five years ago after Hurricane Irene, the Vermont State Hospital was “decimated” and the Retreat, as well as other facilities, stepped up and agreed to take a unit of patients.

At that time, the Federal Emergency Management Association funded the renovation to the Retreat’s adult unit, resulting in a safe and comfortable environment in which to offer effective therapeutic services.

In determining the needs for an upgraded adolescent unit, the Retreat has drawn from the features included in the adult unit and also solicited input from a consultant, a consumer advocacy group, an architectural firm and clinical staff.

“We pulled from as many possible sources as we could,” Albert said. The new unit will not add beds, but will contain the 21 it now has.

Administrators at the Retreat hope to receive financial assistance for the project from the state. “Our thought is that we provide essential services to the state. It’s the only way to ensure that patients receive safe treatment in the most appropriate milieu setting,” Albert said. “As a not-for-profit, we don’t have the money to invest but are willing to do fundraising. We need to partner and Vermont is all about partnerships.”

The Retreat hopes to see the project on the legislature’s priority list. To get the bill on the docket in Vermont, the Retreat needs to capture the administrations’ attention, Albert reported.

He pointed out legislators, the commissioner of the Department of Mental Health, the secretary of Health and Human Services as well as other government officials have seen the plans and toured the facility.

“They put a draft budget together, which would come under the capital budget. This won’t happen this year. We are looking at next year and will continue to talk over the summer,” he said. “We have a really nice partnership with the commissioner and the governor’s office. They ‘get it’ and they know how to do it right for the mental health community. It’s important that we do things in relationship to and in partnership with people in our state.”

Preliminary cost estimates range between $9 million and $12 million for the 21-bed unit. “If you look at the dollar amount per bed, it would be less than what was paid for the adult unit,” said Albert.

By Phyllis Hanlon

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