Gov. Peter Shumlin said today that the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury, which was closed following Tropical Storm Irene, will not re-open, and outlined his plan to ensure Vermont's mental health community has access to quality services across the state.
The plan includes acute in-patient care in at least two locations, increased services that enable individuals to remain in their communities, expanded local emergency services, and increased support for effective programs helping those with mental health conditions. The Governor said these improvements would be monitored and evaluated, and discussions about a long-term plan will continue, and acknowledged the need to talk about other inpatient capacity.
"Building a replacement facility is years away at best, and we need to put services in place now to ensure all Vermonters have access to the care they need," Gov. Shumlin said. "The absence of the hospital creates the opportunity to fund community services for recovery that can help prevent the need for hospitalization. We believe that all of these actions taken together will meet Vermont's mental health needs."
The following actions are in motion:
1. Establish a long-term agreement with the Brattleboro Retreat for 14 acute care beds. The Retreat has been helping since the flood to provide up to 15 beds and will make some renovations to allow them, on a long term basis, to care for individuals with higher needs for supervision and management.
2. Fund two additional "step down" facilities (similar to Second Spring in Williamstown) for people ready to leave the hospital, so that individuals ready to move from the hospital to another setting for recovery have quick access to a bed. This will help ensure hospital beds are reserved for those in need for that level of service.
3. Deliver on the long-overdue promise of community-based mental health services.
4. Continue to find and secure a facility that can provide 15 beds for appropriate care and services for people in need of acute care. We have looked at many possibilities already and continue to search. Pine Ridge School in Williston is under active consideration, as is a site located near the Central Vermont Medical Center.
Gov. Shumlin praised the heroic efforts of Vermont State Hospital staff and patients for not only safely evacuating the facility during the tropical storm, but for staff continuing to travel far from home to provide support in other settings. He also thanked community hospitals for providing care to individuals whose needs often exceed what the hospitals are designed to handle.
"This crisis is an opportunity to rebuild our mental health services to make them better than before. That's just what we intend to do," the Governor said.