Vt. mental health workers describe current system as unsustainab - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Vt. mental health workers describe current system as unsustainable

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Unsustainable. That's how multiple front line workers described their positions to serve mental health patients in Vermont hospitals.

"When I show up to work every day, my heart falls," said Dr. Benjamin Smith of the UVM Medical Center. "I look at our track board, and I think, 'How many is it today that are waiting?'"

Hospital workers came to the Statehouse to share their experiences with the House Health Care and Senate Health and Welfare committees. Employees who testified said that in addition to not being able to provide patients proper care, they are exhausted, overworked and underpaid.

"We are losing staff, we are going with vacant positions for long periods of time," said Kristen Briggs of the Clara Martin Center. 

"I'm not certain that our current situation is something that's durable for a career and that saddens me," said Dr. Justin Knapp of the Central Vermont Medical Center. 

Members acknowledge that they need more resources in order to make changes. 

"We'll make proposals in this legislative session, I'm certain of that," said Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg. "Try to craft solutions that move Vermont toward a mental health system that can respond at the level we need." 

"We need some geriatrics psych beds. People are just stuck. No one will take them in the regular nursing home. We need more beds for people with criminal histories. They need to be in a facility that's specially staffed and specially created," said Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison County.  

Both the Legislature and those who testified acknowledged frustration about the large-scale issue and that there is no quick fix. Many agreed reducing the stigma of mental illness and sharing day-to-day challenges with legislators is a step in the right direction. 

"Facilitating proper care will take resources, commitment and possibly courage," said Dr. Liam Gannon of Copley Hospital. 

Lawmakers say they will continue to collect and review testimony before deciding which changes to make.

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