Advocates say State Hospital may be closing too quickly

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(Host) Mental health advocates are concerned that the state may be moving too fast in its effort to reduce the number of patients being treated at the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury.

The hospital recently lost its federal certification for a second time when two patients walked away from the facility. Afterward, the state announced an accelerated plan to phase out the hospital. As part of the plan, the state wants to reduce the number of patients at the hospital from 50 to 35 by the end of March.

Northfield Representative Anne Donahue says “walkaways” are common and don’t mean that patients aren’t receiving good care. Speaking Thursday night on VPR’s Switchboard program, Donahue said she supports efforts to phase out the hospital, but she feels the state is overreacting to the decertification by trying to move patients to other facilities too quickly.

(Donahue) “I think people are more concerned about the next two months. That may be trying to move too rapidly and coming up against unintended consequences. They’re not bags of potatoes here.”

(Host) Secretary of Human Services Charles Smith says in the short term, a number of State Hospital patients would voluntarily move to the Brattleboro Retreat, which is equipped to provide the appropriate care.

(Smith) “We’re taking a very careful, measured approach and I would expect to a large extent, the choice to go to Brattleboro Retreat would be a voluntary choice and that is not wholly unrealistic that we would have a meaningful number of patients that voluntarily go there.”

(Host) The state plan to phase out the Waterbury hospital calls for the eventual construction of a new 28 bed facility — in addition to treating patients at existing hospitals, and providing more transitional housing and outpatient services.

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