Colodny eases tension with mental health advocates

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(Host) The interim CEO at Fletcher Allen Health Care has reached out to a group that has been among the hospital’s strongest critics. Ed Colodny, who recently assumed the leadership post at the Burlington hospital, spoke Friday to a group of mental health advocates. The group in the past has clashed with the hospital over its plans to move a psychiatric ward.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Host) Ed Colodny didn’t make a long speech to the Vermont Association for Mental Health. But the group’s executive director, Ken Libertoff, says the fact Colodny was there at all spoke volumes:

(Libertoff) “I want say to Edwin Colodny before he speaks that even if he got up here and didn’t say anything and just stood here for five minutes, we appreciate your willingness to come down, to take the time, to meet and greet people in the mental health community who are very interested in what you have to say.”

(Dillon) Colodny drew laughs when he first stood silently at the podium.

(Sound of laughter from the audience.)
(Colodny) “Good morning. Thank you everybody. I appreciate the opportunity to stand here and say nothing. That’s never happened!”

(Dillon) Then the interim CEO promised to work with the mental health community on psychiatric care issues at Fletcher Allen. Last year, mental health patients and advocates criticized the hospital for its plans to move an inpatient psychiatric care unit miles away from the main Fletcher Allen campus.

The state ultimately rejected the plan and Fletcher Allen worked with a task force on a new proposal that would keep the facility at the Burlington hospital. Colodny pledged to follow through on that plan.

(Colodny) “I committed yesterday in a letter to the task force that the commitments that have been made on behalf of the health care center will be kept. And we will earnestly pursue as rapid an implementation of that program as is possible. And I want you all to know that we will stand by our commitments.”

(Dillon) The debate over the psychiatric care unit ultimately led to allegations that hospital officials misled state regulators over the scope of its $254 million redevelopment project. Colodny was hired by trustees to rebuild trust with regulators and the public. He disclosed earlier this week that the Renaissance Project faces $26 million in cost overruns.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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