Standing with members of Vermont's mental health advocacy community, health care providers and legislators, Gov. Peter Shumlin today signed into law a bill strengthening Vermont's mental health system, shifting care from an obsolete institution-based system to a more individual-focused, community-based focus.
"This is a landmark moment for our state, ending years of dead-end discussions about how best to serve our friends, family members and neighbors with mental health conditions," Gov. Shumlin said. "We will no longer rely on a decrepit hospital to house these patients, but instead provide all levels of care in a variety of settings closer to their homes and communities."
The Governor said the new system will focus on preventing crises from happening for people with mental health conditions, and when they do occur, providing flexible, patient-centered services to get them on the road to recovery.
"Today we mark the end of an outdated, broken system and celebrate the beginning of a system that will provide more personalized care, closer to home, for Vermonters suffering from mental health issues," said House Speaker Shap Smith. "I am thankful for the work of the Legislature, the Administration, and all the advocates who came to the table to chart a path forward. It wasn't easy, but we got it done."
The Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury, which was severely damaged in the August tropical storm, will remain closed. Under the new law, acute in-patient care will be provided at the Brattleboro Retreat, the Rutland Regional Medical Center and Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, as well as a new 16-25 bed secure facility to be located near the Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin. In addition, services that enable individuals to remain in their communities will be increased, local emergency services expanded, and support for effective programs helping those with mental health conditions strengthened.
"This bill is proof that Vermont's legislative process works," said Floyd Nease, executive director of the Vermont Association for Mental Health. "It's a new day and a brighter future for Vermonters with mental health conditions.'
The Governor thanked lawmakers for moving swiftly to pass the legislation, noting that pressure on the mental health community -- patients and providers alike -- has been acute since the closing of the hospital.
"Now we can move as quickly as possible to deliver the best care possible in what will be one of the most progressive, community-based systems in the country," Gov. Shumlin said.