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>>

  • Rutland pharmacist accused of stealing meds

    Rutland pharmacist accused of stealing meds

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:43 PM EDT2014-04-24 03:43:47 GMT
    In Rutland a pharmacist is accused of stealing meds from his employer. 32-year-old Brandon Cigana worked at the Walgreens Pharmacy on Woodstock Avenue. Prosecutors say he used his position there to access the pharmacy's inventory stealing regulated drugs like benzodiazepines, Hydrocodone and Suboxone for himself without a prescription. The Whitehall, New York man faces up to two years behind bars.More >>
    In Rutland a pharmacist is accused of stealing meds from his employer. 32-year-old Brandon Cigana worked at the Walgreens Pharmacy on Woodstock Avenue. Prosecutors say he used his position there to access the pharmacy's inventory stealing regulated drugs like benzodiazepines, Hydrocodone and Suboxone for himself without a prescription. The Whitehall, New York man faces up to two years behind bars.More >>
  • Drug bust in Burlington's Old North End

    Drug bust in Burlington's Old North End

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:44 PM EDT2014-04-24 03:44:04 GMT
    Police made a drug bust Wednesday night in Burlington's Old North End. Police and the U.S. Marshal's raided this home on Cedar Street around 8 o'clock. They say they seized heroin and cocaine. Six people were inside when authorities went in. But they're not saying how many arrests were made. The raid was part of an ongoing drug investigation.More >>
    Police made a drug bust Wednesday night in Burlington's Old North End. Police and the U.S. Marshal's raided this home on Cedar Street around 8 o'clock. They say they seized heroin and cocaine. Six people were inside when authorities went in. But they're not saying how many arrests were made. The raid was part of an ongoing drug investigation.More >>
  • Fire damages Lyndonville tree farm

    Fire damages Lyndonville tree farm

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:44 PM EDT2014-04-24 03:44:21 GMT
    Fire has damaged ten acres of a Lyndonville tree farm. Eight department were called in to battle the blaze. And it took four hours to get the flames under control. Fire officals say a discarded cigarette combined with dry conditions are to blame. One firefighter suffered from minor smoke inhalation.More >>
    Fire has damaged ten acres of a Lyndonville tree farm. Eight department were called in to battle the blaze. And it took four hours to get the flames under control. Fire officals say a discarded cigarette combined with dry conditions are to blame. One firefighter suffered from minor smoke inhalation.More >>
  • A warning for bird watchers: Give eagles space

    A warning for bird watchers: Give eagles space

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:44 PM EDT2014-04-24 03:44:36 GMT
    Bird watchers are being reminded to give nesting bald eagles plenty of space. The Vermont Fish Wildlife Department is urging anyone who sees a nesting eagle not to get closer than 300 feet. Activity too close to their nest can result in them abandoning their young. Harassing a bald eagle is illegal and a violation of the state endangered species statute.More >>
    Bird watchers are being reminded to give nesting bald eagles plenty of space. The Vermont Fish Wildlife Department is urging anyone who sees a nesting eagle not to get closer than 300 feet. Activity too close to their nest can result in them abandoning their young. Harassing a bald eagle is illegal and a violation of the state endangered species statute.More >>
  • Gun fired into New Haven home

    Gun fired into New Haven home

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:44 PM EDT2014-04-24 03:44:48 GMT
    Police are searching for who fired a gun into a home in New Haven. It happened late Tuesday night at 2420 Munger Street. Police say a bullet passed through a window of the home. Luckily no one was hurt. Investigators say a stop sign at the intersection of Munger Street and Cobble Road had also been shot. Anyone with information should call state police.More >>
    Police are searching for who fired a gun into a home in New Haven. It happened late Tuesday night at 2420 Munger Street. Police say a bullet passed through a window of the home. Luckily no one was hurt. Investigators say a stop sign at the intersection of Munger Street and Cobble Road had also been shot. Anyone with information should call state police.More >>
  • What triggered a shooting inside the Bennington police station?

    What triggered a shooting inside the Bennington police station?

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 6:57 PM EDT2014-04-23 22:57:35 GMT
    A Bennington man is in stable condition after being shot by an officer inside the Bennington Police Department. Investigators say Gregory Filo had a knife and was behaving erratically.More >>
    A Bennington man is in stable condition after being shot by an officer inside the Bennington Police Department. Investigators say Gregory Filo had a knife and was behaving erratically.More >>
  • Former Fortune 500 exec indicted in fatal NH crash

    Former Fortune 500 exec indicted in fatal NH crash

    A New Hampshire grand jury has indicted a former Fortune 500 executive on second-degree murder charges in connection with a crash that killed a Vermont couple in December.More >>
    A New Hampshire grand jury has indicted a former Fortune 500 executive on second-degree murder charges in a crash that killed a Vermont couple in December.More >>
  • Convicted Vt. embezzler charged with stealing from employer

    Convicted Vt. embezzler charged with stealing from employer

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 7:24 PM EDT2014-04-23 23:24:36 GMT
    Nearly two decades after her first conviction, a white-collar criminal returns to court once again charged with stealing from her employer. More >>
    Nearly two decades after her first conviction, a white-collar criminal returns to court once again charged with stealing from her employer.
    More >>
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.