Quantcast

Mental health crisis forces Vermont to innovate - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Mental health crisis forces Vermont to innovate

Posted: Updated:
MONTPELIER, Vt. -

When Tropical Storm Irene permanently closed the doors to the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury, administrators scrambled to accommodate the facility's mentally ill patients. New facilities are coming online, but the need for secure beds consistently exceeds the supply.

"Any given day we have a couple of people who are stuck in an emergency room," said Mary Moulton, the commissioner of the Vt. Department of Mental Health.

Moulton says 65 percent of patients are placed within 24 hours. But-- especially for the involuntarily committed-- the wait for a secure bed can take days, and require 24-7 law enforcement supervision.

"We've built our capacity specifically for the mission," Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux said.

The Lamoille County Sheriff's office currently handles about half of the mental-illness related transports and assistance supervision statewide. The department received training through a pilot program, earning the office a higher hourly rate.

"We like to think that we're helping out law enforcement throughout the state by relieving them of having to do that," Marcoux said.

The hours are filled primarily by newly hired, part-time staff, like former chiefs and officers. That allows regular officers in Lamoille County and elsewhere to focus on their primary duties. It's also freeing patients from cuffs.

"Where Irene forced us into this, it's really been good to change the way that law enforcement looks at mental health issues," Marcoux said. "We have found-- and the numbers will prove-- that the majority of these people do not have to be restrained."

One year ago, 85 percent of the Vermont patients transported wore metal cuffs. Now, 80 percent wear soft-restraints or none at all.

Over the course of 1,500 man-hours logged by his office-- about 60 cases-- Sheriff Marcoux says only eight individuals have been restrained, and only briefly.

"I'm pleasantly surprised and proud of that," Marcoux said.

Transports and assistance are not a new part of the budget formula for the state department of mental health. But with less room for patients, that portion of the budget ate an additional 33 percent last year, bringing the total to $160,000.

"The extra dollars are primarily due to people who are experiencing the waits and the sheriff support," Moulton said.

The frequency of waits should continue to drop. A $1.7 million, eight-bed facility is open in Morrisville, and a temporary, $1.4 million, seven-bed unit is set to open in Middlesex this April. By next spring, the brand new $28 million, 25-bed facility in Berlin should be ready.

"I really am becoming more confident that the plan we made last year is one that has a really good shot at working," Moulton said.

Law enforcement and health officials say they hope that doesn't change over the course of another year.

Since instituting the pilot program, Marcoux says he's received positive feedback from patient families, mental health staff and members of his own department.

  • Local NewsMore>>

  • Allergy sufferers brave ragweed season

    Allergy sufferers brave ragweed season

    Monday, September 1 2014 7:08 PM EDT2014-09-01 23:08:26 GMT
    If you're sneezing, your nose is running and you're eyes are itchy once again this year -- you're not alone. Fall pollen counts are peaking in our region and proving tough for allergy sufferers looking to enjoy the outdoors.Despite a spate of heat and humidity, the signs of fall are undeniable. Cooler temperatures and color are on the way. And even though many think of spring as "allergy season" due to tree pollens, this time of year can be particularly tough for allergy sufferers, too -- bec...
    If you're sneezing, your nose is running and you're eyes are itchy once again this year -- you're not alone. Fall pollen counts are peaking in our region and proving tough for allergy sufferers looking to enjoy the outdoors.Despite a spate of heat and humidity, the signs of fall are undeniable. Cooler temperatures and color are on the way. And even though many think of spring as "allergy season" due to tree pollens, this time of year can be particularly tough for allergy sufferers, too -- bec...
  • 2 charged with skid-steer joyride on I-89

    2 charged with skid-steer joyride on I-89

    Monday, September 1 2014 7:01 PM EDT2014-09-01 23:01:16 GMT
    The theft of some construction vehicles caused chaos on the Interstate this weekend.
    The theft of some construction vehicles caused chaos on the Interstate this weekend.
  • Holiday drivers find lower prices at the pump

    Holiday drivers find lower prices at the pump

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:59 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:59:21 GMT
    Drivers this holiday weekend found lower gas prices at the pump.
    Drivers this holiday weekend found lower gas prices at the pump.
  • Sanders addresses Labor Day rally

    Sanders addresses Labor Day rally

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:51 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:51:52 GMT
    Community members gathered in Burlington's Battery Park Monday to celebrate Labor Day -- and hear from Senator Bernie Sanders.Union leaders addressed the importance of employees supporting one another. They also thanked the community for supporting Vermont's unions. Senator Sanders says the holiday is for working people to not only celebrate their gains, but to also address issues facing the working class."There's a lot of work in front of us if we're going to make sure that our kids and our ...
    Community members gathered in Burlington's Battery Park Monday to celebrate Labor Day -- and hear from Senator Bernie Sanders.Union leaders addressed the importance of employees supporting one another. They also thanked the community for supporting Vermont's unions. Senator Sanders says the holiday is for working people to not only celebrate their gains, but to also address issues facing the working class."There's a lot of work in front of us if we're going to make sure that our kids and our ...
  • Bike racers wrap up weekend events

    Bike racers wrap up weekend events

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:51 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:51:16 GMT
    The Green Mountain Stage Race took to the streets of Burlington Monday.
    The Green Mountain Stage Race took to the streets of Burlington Monday.
  • Authorities seize animals from Santa's Land

    Authorities seize animals from Santa's Land

    Monday, September 1 2014 4:32 PM EDT2014-09-01 20:32:03 GMT
    The Windham County Sheriffs Department says it seized multiple animals from the theme park this weekend.
    The Windham County Sheriffs Department says it seized multiple animals from the theme park this weekend.
  • Body discovered in Massena

    Body discovered in Massena

    Monday, September 1 2014 4:02 PM EDT2014-09-01 20:02:43 GMT
    New York State Police are investigating an unidentified body found in Massena.
    New York State Police are investigating an unidentified body found in Massena.
  • Community remembers O'Hagan's presence at Sheffield Field Days

    Community remembers O'Hagan's presence at Sheffield Field Days

    Monday, September 1 2014 6:54 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:54:21 GMT

    Sheffield Field Days is a Labor Day tradition -- attended by hundreds. But each year the event reminds the community who is missing.

    Sheffield Field Days is a Labor Day tradition -- attended by hundreds. But each year the event reminds the community who is missing.

Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WCAX. All Rights Reserved. For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.