Brattleboro Retreat Sees Record Increase In Admissions

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(Host) The national recession has been hard on job, college and retirement plans and home sales. But it’s also taking its toll on mental health.

Brattleboro Retreat officials say the economy is part of the reason there’s been a record increase in admissions over the past year at the private psychiatric hospital.

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Keese) Brattleboro Retreat president Rob Simpson says economic problems don’t cause psychiatric disorders. The incidence of such illnesses as schizophrenia, bipolar disease and major depression stays relatively stable over time.

(Simpson) "But we also know that when people are having a more difficult time, when they’re unemployed, when they can’t find a job, when they can’t afford to be in college, that  the stress probably has to do with increased incidence of the illness getting worse, and then people seek out an inpatient level of care."

(Keese) Simpson says psychiatric institutions around the country are reporting a three to four percent spike in admissions.

The increase at the Brattleboro Retreat is more dramatic.

(Simpson) "We’re up 23 percent over where we were last year and 53 percent over where we were in 2006, when I arrived, in terms of admissions of new people to the Brattleboro Retreat."

(Keese) Inpatient stays for mental illness dropped during the nineties and early 2000’s, mostly due to new technologies and medications.

Now, he says, the hospital is turning patients away.

Simpson says it would be an oversimplification to pin the increase now on the poor economy alone.

New laws that require comparable benefits for physical and mental illness and addictions have made it easier for many people to get mental health services.

Then there’s the new federal health law that allows adults up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance policies.

(Simpson) "If you look at the incidence biologically of mental illness, between the ages of 18 and 30 is when you see a lot of the major mental illnesses come forward. So now that they’re insured it’s a very good thing."

(Keese) The Retreat is planning to build a new 14-bed unit targeted specifically at young adults. The hospital is Vermont’s designated facility for children who need inpatient mental health treatment.

Simpson says the hospital launched two timely programs last year .

(Simpson)" Last year we opened up a unit for Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals who so are experiencing mental illness and addiction. "

(Keese) The hospital also launched a post traumatic stress disorder program for military veterans as well as fire, police and rescue workers.

(Simpson) "And those services by targeting discreet populations helped people who needed help and would not usually ask for help come and find specialized programs."

A little less than half the hospital’s patients come from out of state. Simpson says Vermont’s reputation as a safe and peaceful place has helped with marketing efforts.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.

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