ST. JOHNSBURY — Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH) Emergency Department Medical Director Ryan Sexton, MD attended the American College of Emergency Physicians’ (ACEP) 2019 Leadership & Advocacy Conference with Gifford Medical Center emergency physician, A. Nicole Thran, MD on May 8 in Washington D.C. This year’s annual conference highlighted the importance of advocating for improving mental health access from the emergency department.
Because Sexton, who serves as the president of ACEP’s Vermont chapter, and Thran are advocates for a proposed bill that addresses mental health treatment access, both met with staff from the offices of Bernie Sanders, Patrick Leahy and Peter Welch. Sexton and Thran stressed the need for expedited transition to post-emergency care, increased inpatient psychiatric bed capacity and expanded approaches to providing psychiatric specialty care in the emergency departments.
“I took the opportunity to speak to our individual needs in Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom,” Sexton said. “I also advocated for the continuation of critical access hospital funding and talked about how important it is for our community and our population to have NVRH here and functioning.”
Sexton, who spent time working in a congressional office in college, said that, “this experience again reminded me of the importance of communicating with our legislators. If there are particular issues that are impacting our population, I think our legislators need to hear about them.”
“I’m really pleased Dr. Sexton was able to attend this years’ conference,” NVRH CEO Shawn Tester said. “Not only was the subject timely for us, but it is also important for our legislators to hear directly from providers and physicians about the challenges we face. These stories can have a meaningful impact, as they advocate on our behalf.”
Sexton and Thran also participated in round table discussions with other New England state ACEP chapters to talk about regional issues and brainstorm potential solutions. Another issue brought up that is somewhat unique to our region, according to Sexton, is the lack of tertiary-care availability.
“We’re frequently dealing with this when having to transfer critically ill patients,” Sexton said. “Our primary receiving facility, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, is often at capacity and we have to rely on other more distant hospitals, which are also often full. Small rural New England hospitals have their own unique challenges and needs. Ultimately, though, we share similar needs across the US, especially regarding mental health.”
Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital is located in St. Johnsbury in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. We are a community, not-for-profit, acute care, critical access hospital. NVRH is one of two Vermont hospitals designated as a Baby FriendlyTM hospital by the United Nations. The organization provides primary and preventive care, surgical and specialty services, inpatient and outpatient care and 24-hour, physician-staffed emergency services. NVRH serves more than 30,000 people in the Caledonia and Southern Essex Counties in Vermont and employs 600.