Brattleboro Retreat may close or be sold due to financial crisis

(WCAX)
Published: Jan. 5, 2020 at 8:25 PM EST
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Vermont's largest in-patient mental health facility, the Brattleboro Retreat, has voted to begin the process of either closing or selling the facility due to financial troubles.

Vermont Human Services Secretary Mike Smith says the state has invested millions of dollars into the privately run facility but says management "has failed to deliver fiscal stability to the institution."

According to the Agency of Human Services, the mental health and addiction treatment facility received a financial package less than two months ago that is valued at an estimated $16 million. That included an investment to build 12 new Level-1 beds and to pay the ongoing operation of those beds. Brattleboro Retreat officials have estimated that work will be completed by late spring.

There are 119 total beds at the Windham County facility including 30 for children and adolescents. It's the only secure, hospital-level mental health care facility for youth in Vermont. There are 89 beds are for adults. As of Sunday, 81 of 119 beds were full and 26 beds were closed.

AHS officials say from 2016 to 2018 there were 7,680 patient discharges. On average, the facility serves 2,500 patients per year, staying an average of eight days.

Secretary Smith says last week Retreat officials asked for an additional $2 million in funding. They said the number of patients they had budgeted for was much lower than expected. Smith denied the request.

"Their financial strategy appears to be built on a flawed premise that continued financial bailouts from taxpayers is an effective long-term solution or is expected when Retreat management makes a financial miscalculation (budgeting a higher patient count). Second, the Retreat has not made any significant management or strategic operational changes. And third, there is little clarity on where they stand financially and the prospects of better financial conditions in the future, including how they plan to pay over $1 million of taxes that are owed to the State of Vermont," Smith said in a statement Sunday.

He says the Brattleboro Retreat's board delivered a letter on Friday saying they had voted to begin the process of closing or selling the retreat.

"Make no mistake, any threat of closure is both the decision and the result of the Retreat’s current leadership," Smith said.

Smith says he will speak with the board and management on Monday to ensure patient safety is a priority in whatever decision the Retreat makes.

"Significant management and operational changes are necessary to save it -- and the jobs there. It is the responsibility of the Retreat’s board to accomplish this task or assemble a team that can," he said.

Smith says he does not support asking taxpayers to foot the bill for the facility's bailout.