Changes Underway At Brattleboro Retreat

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Changes are underway at the Brattleboro Retreat. The psychiatric hospital will open a new Adult Intensive Unit next week. The facility is part of the state’s new plan to serve mental health patients following the closure of the Vermont State Hospital by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene.

After the storm, the Retreat immediately took patients into an older unit that was quickly redesigned for safety. Now they’ve fully re-designed a unit in the Tyler building on the fourth floor.

Since Tropical Storm Irene closed the Vermont State Hospital patients have been waiting for beds in mental health care facilities, sometimes for days. Simpson said the new unit might not ease that backlog.

"We already see 14 patients on the other unit that we have and we’ll just essentially be going from one unit to the redesigned unit. But it’s also important to point out that on our other adult units we’ve been accepting up to another 14 patients a day since the closure of the State Hospital and peppering patients throughout the hospital on a unit that might work best for them," Simpson said.

Simpson says the system is still in crisis, waiting for all of the new State Hospital in Berlin, the acute residential services around the state to open.

"There will still be patients backed up in the emergency rooms," Simpson said.

The Brattleboro Retreat is also dealing with licensing issues. A February study for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as CMS found that the hospital was not in compliance with federal, state and local laws, and also had substantial deficiencies in protecting patients’ rights.

And the survey said the Retreat didn’t follow its own quality improvement program.

"Hospitals around this country are constantly in a state of improving themselves. It’s just the way it works. Over the last 5 years, we’ve had over 250 performance improvement projects, looking at how we can improve care," Simpson said. "What’s important to note is when the Retreat has a problem, we have a track record in fixing that problem."

Simpson says it’s a question of personal performance versus organizational performance. They try to re-educate employees and get to the root of the problem. The Retreat has been writing a plan of correction for CMS.

"On the more complex issues, education or policy re-design, we’ll take the appropriate amount of time to get the right people in the room and make sure we’re looking at it thoughtfully," Simpson said.

The Brattleboro Retreat also recently announced a partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont called the Vermont Care Collaborative.

"The concept is to make sure the mind and body are treated together and that folks that are reviewing an individual’s medical claim will also look at the interface of the brain the body and mental health and addiction, concerns, having a united effort to make sure Vermonters are receiving the best health care they can receive," Simpson said.

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