(Host) Mental health care providers and patient advocates say the state should forge ahead with plans to close the state hospital and replace it with a network of residential centers.
A year ago, the state announced the plan to phase out the hospital.
But there’s been little progress because of local opposition to the residential centers.
VPR’s Steve Zind reports.
(Zind) Last year the members of the Vermont State Hospital Futures Advisory Group voted to support a plan to close State Hospital in Waterbury and replace it with a new psychiatric hospital connected to the Fletcher Allen Health Care Center in Burlington and two smaller in-patient facilities elsewhere in Vermont.
In recent months residents of Vergennes and Greensboro have rejected the idea of their towns hosting the in-patient centers. Friday, after some soul-searching, the group encouraged state officials to continue to pursue the plan.
Some members expressed confusion about the details of the plan and said they sensed the public is confused as well. Anne Jerman is the nursing administrator at the Vermont State Hospital.
(Jerman) “When I think about what we’re trying to, in some ways ‘sell’ to the public or sell to a community, we’re not really clear about why it would be to anybody’s advantage to have a program like that in a community, why it’s to the advantage of the people who are participating in the program to be in that program in that community. To me those are big questions.”
(Zind) Group members told state officials that better communication could build more public support. The state had hoped to have sub-acute care facilities open in two communities by now.
In Burlington city officials and local residents have also voiced concerns about a proposed acute care facility attached to Fletcher Allen. John Malloy of the Howard Center for Human Services is a psychiatrist at the state hospital. Malloy says he’s worried about the prospects for that facility.
(Malloy) “We can talk about Greensboro and Vergennes, but those are not psychiatric intensive care units and that has to be part of the solution to this. If we don’t, then there will be a de-facto intensive care unit and my concern and my fear, because it’s done in many other states, is it’s going to be the correctional system.”
(Zind) The state hopes to close the Waterbury hospital in four years as part of the plan to restructure the way Vermont delivers mental health care.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.