State hospital to loose funds in decertification

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(Host) The Douglas administration plans to use some one-time money to offset the loss of more than a half million dollars in federal funds for the State Hospital in Waterbury. The administration expects the psychiatric hospital will be decertified by the federal government for at least nine months.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The Douglas administration was hoping that the State Hospital could maintain its certification despite a negative federal review last winter. Earlier this month, the administration put a new action plan into place to address the deficiencies there were uncovered in that review. But then this week, state officials confirmed the second suicide at the Hospital in the past six weeks.

Under these circumstances, federal officials made it clear that the state could not avoid decertification. Administration Secretary Michael Smith expects the state to lose federal Medicare and Medicaid funds for the next nine months at a cost of $500,000.

Normally the administration would oppose using one-time money for the ongoing operations of state government. But Smith says this situation is different:

(Smith) “So we’re looking at all alternatives right at the moment I don’t have any information right now that I can convey where that money is going to come from but a) it’s going to be one time money and b) it shouldn’t be a recurring problem given that fact that recertification should be happening in June.”

(Kinzel) The head of the Vermont Association for Mental Health, Ken Libertoff, is hoping that the current situation will encourage state officials to conduct a top to bottom review of Vermont’s mental health system with an eye towards strengthening community programs:

(Libertoff) “This is an age in which we’ve made great advances in our thinking about mental health treatment. And the model that we have in Waterbury clearly reflects the past century when people were isolated and segregated in a rural farm setting, which is really what the history of the Waterbury State Hospital was about.”

(Kinzel) The Legislature is expected to review this issue in January.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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