Amid Funding Woes, A Move To Replace Old State Hospital

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(Host) The Shumlin administration is moving forward with a plan to replace the troubled Vermont State Hospital with a new facility, despite ongoing questions about federal funding.

VPR’s Patti Daniels reports.

(Daniels) The Vermont State Hospital is an acute care facility for patients in mental health crisis. And it’s been widely criticized for its substandard facilities:

(Racine) "You know, you walk through there, and frankly it feels like a prison."

Human Services Secretary Doug Racine runs the Agency that oversees the hospital.

(Racine) "It’s not a good place. You know, the staff does as – a good job, given the nature of the facility. But it’s an outdated, outmoded facility. I don’t think we’re going to get re-certified as long as we’re in that building."

(Daniels) Speaking Tuesday on Vermont Edition, Doug Racine affirmed the Shumlin administration’s intention of building a new hospital in a new location.

(Racine) "You know this is complex, and you might ask – this has been going on for 10 years, why aren’t we closer? Well, this is the new administration and the governor is very much committed to having the existing facility close; he’s very much committed to have a plan before the Legislature come January."

(Daniels) The state wants to build the new facility near Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin. Racine is quick to point out there’s no agreement yet with Central Vermont Medical Center

The current hospital has struggled to pass federal inspection and maintain its certification since 2003. That means the state can’t draw down millions of dollars in Medicaid matching funds for the patients in its care. Racine says there’s no guarantee the state will get federal dollars for the new hospital either.

(Racine) "It’s approximately a million dollars a bed to construct. And right now we’re spending about a half a million dollars per patient-year. So it’s an expensive proposition."

(Daniels) Racine says the plan for the new hospital needs to be worked out by November, so that it can be factored into the state’s budget planning for next year.

For VPR News, I’m Patti Daniels.

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