Leading Stories, Articles

July 10th, 2021

VT legislature calls for action to address ED boarding

By Catherine Robertson Souter

In 2020, the state of Vermont was ranked first in the nation for access to mental health care in Mental Health America’s annual state-by-state rankings. Yet, this spring, the state’s legislature was shocked to hear stories of children in mental health crisis languishing for hours, days, and even weeks in emergency departments while awaiting transfer to psychiatric care.

Similar to the situation that has been happening in New Hampshire, albeit at a lesser rate, Vermont has seen an increase in the number of people held in emergency departments over the past decade, hitting a peak in 2017.…

October 7th, 2020

Woodside’s fate remains up in the air

By New England Psychologist Staff

The fate of Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center, Vermont’s only juvenile detention facility, is up in the air.

While state officials work to figure out what’s next for the embattled facility, there are no children housed at the 30-bed secure facility.

“There are no youth being served by the Woodside facility currently,” said Luciana DiRuocco, executive staff assistant, public information officer, for the state’s Department for Children and Families (DCF).

“We are currently using in- and out-of-state programs to serve the youth traditionally served by Woodside for the time being while we see if we can stand up a new program with approximately five beds for those youth that require this level of secure care,” she continued.…

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 or mental health challenge.…

January 4th, 2020

VT legislators seek to close gap in criminal justice, mental health systems

By Phyllis Hanlon

Conrad's LawEarlier this year, three high-profile criminal cases were dropped when Vermont’s attorney general deemed the defendants insane at the time the crimes were committed. The ruling drew questions about the way the state handles criminal cases involving people with mental illness. To address this issue, lawmakers proposed legislation to bridge the gap.

State Senator Richard Sears (D-Bennington County and Wilmington) reported that the bill is still in the draft stage and is the result of collaboration with several other senators and the office of states attorneys. “I expect once introduced in January both Senate Judiciary and Senate Health and Welfare to take up the bill and hopefully have it to the full Senate for a vote by the end of February,” he said.…

August 28th, 2019

Dismissal of three legal insanity cases causes stir in VT

By Eileen Weber

Three cases—two murder and one attempted murder—were dismissed in Vermont’s Chittenden County by State’s Attorney Sarah George as a result of legal insanity defenses.

Some called her decision to dismiss into question, specifically Governor Phil Scott who asked Attorney General T.J. Donovan to review these cases. George, however, felt the governor’s reaction was insulting and set a bad precedent. In a tweet in early June responding to Scott’s request for review, George made it clear that she feels his move is politically motivated.

“It is awful that our mental health agencies are failing us, but real leadership requires digging in and fixing problems,” she stated, “not pointing fingers elsewhere and undermining the judicial system’s integrity.”…

August 26th, 2019

Mt. Ascutney Hospital adopts program to benefit families

By Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Like the rest of the U.S., Vermont has been hit hard by the opioid crisis. Windsor County has seen a steady increase in heroin- and fentanyl-related deaths, according to Jill Lord, RN, MS, director of community health at Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center in Windsor.

Our families are grappling with the impact of both the opioid crisis and the significant trauma [this is causing],” Lord said.

Programs to address these challenges are underway.

Windsor County is one of several locations of a new project-based on the Developmental Understanding & Legal Collaboration for Everyone (DULCE) model, which serves all families with newborns up to six months old.

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.…

March 9th, 2019

Vermont’s new mental health commissioner Sarah Squirrell ready to face challenges

By Margarita Tartakovsky, MS

Like many states, Vermont is in dire need of mental health reform. Sarah Squirrell, Vermont’s newest mental health commissioner, said there are no easy answers to the complex challenges.

However, Squirrell welcomes the opportunity to address these issues, which, she said, require collaboration, innovation, and commitment.

“Our communities and service delivery systems must commit to work together to advance solutions to improve the care of individuals with mental health needs, and to always keep the needs of those we serve and their families at the center of our work,” Squirrell said.…

June 12th, 2018

VT braces for loss of psychiatric bed Medicaid funding

By Janine Weisman

VT braces for loss of psychiatric bed Medicaid fundingA special waiver exempts Vermont from a decades-old restriction prohibiting states from using Medicaid funds to cover services for non-elderly adults with mental health conditions in hospital settings with more than 16 beds.

But Vermont’s waiver is set to expire starting in 2021 and phase out completely in 2025. That would leave the state on the hook for the $23 million in federal dollars being used to provide treatment for patients ages 21 to 64 at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital (VPCH) in Berlin and Brattleboro Retreat, said Department of Mental Health (DMH) Commissioner Melissa Bailey.…

June 11th, 2018

Revenue to focus on increasing inpatient capacity

By Pamela Berard

inpatient hospital bed mental health vermontThe Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) gave the go-ahead for the University of Vermont (UVM) Health Network to move forward on a project that would use the Network’s extra revenue from 2017 to increase inpatient mental health capacity in Vermont.

The GMCB, established by the Vermont Legislature in 2011, is charged with reducing the rate of health care cost growth in Vermont while ensuring the state maintains a high-quality, accessible health care system.

Vermont’s hospital budgets are regulated by the GMCB. When health care facilities exceed allowable budgeted net patient revenues, they are subject to review and possible regulatory action, which could include the care board ordering a reduction in rates that hospitals charge for their services.…