Vermont State Hospital consultants recommend a compromise

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(Host) Consultants hired by the Legislature have recommended a compromise for how the Vermont State Hospital should be replaced.

The consultants say most mental health services should be offered through community institutions, especially local hospitals.

But they say the state will continue to need an inpatient psychiatric facility for long-term care and rehabilitation.

Richard Surles, a former state mental health commissioner, was one of three consultants who offered recommendations to the Legislature.

(Surles) “Our position was acute care belongs in in-patient community hospitals. But the state needs to retain some responsibility for long-term rehabilitation.”

(Host) The state has been looking at a plan similar to what the consultants recommended. But it envisioned a 50-bed unit at Fletcher Allen Healthcare in Burlington for long-term care.

Former state Human Services Secretary Con Hogan says he and the other consultants think something smaller is needed.

(Hogan) “We’re recommending that there be a facility in the central Vermont or Waterbury area that provides that longer-term rehabilitative function – a secure facility because some folks need that – but certainly not an acute care facility from the medical point of view.”

(Host) State officials were forced to find alternatives to the aging, century-old state hospital in Waterbury because the facility lost its federal certification – and about nine million dollars in annual funding – four years ago.

Legislative leaders and the governor have been at odds about what needs to be done.

But Mental Health Commissioner Michael Hartman says he welcomes the new report.

(Hartman) “I think that this report really helps to illustrate those really key points that we all have to look at as a system, both as consumers, providers and funders to determine what is the best hospital we construct or the best services we construct for the next 50 years.”

(Host) The solution that officials ultimately agree on will have to be approved by the Legislature.

Legislative leaders say they want to settle the question in their upcoming session.

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