New Vermont State Hospital needed

To the Editor:

I am greatly concerned about the direction that the Governor of Vermont is taking regarding the replacement of the Vermont State Mental Hospital. I have little confidence he is getting good advice from AHS and Dr. Wehry as the quality of services seems to be taking a severe turn for the worse since Gov. Shumlin took office. Family members have had a lot of contact with the mental health system and services are poor at best and then only when someone is there to advocate for the patient. Farming out five beds here and 10 beds there to private or community hospitals just doesn't make sense from a quality standpoint. There will be no comprehensive long-term care given in these hospitals and the financial push will be to get the patient out from under their roof as soon as the patient stops screaming. No private pay, then we don't want you even if you need comprehensive help as long as you are no longer an emergency. Good comprehensive care can provide long lasting results and prevent passing on the costs to yet another agency such as corrections or family services. Where in Vermont is a very severely mentally ill person going to get comprehensive care if there is no State Hospital?

Recently, disabled people have been tasered and pepper sprayed in Vermont because there was improper control of them. What is the current plan to take care of severe cases -- chain them to the wall in a jail?

I can cite several incidences where care was not given in local emergency departments. One of these incidences has since cost the state or system many hundred thousands of dollars if not millions and resulted in permanent injury and will require lifelong care. Privacy prevents my giving the name. I am however able to give you the name of Evan Reposa as his is a legal case. Someone dropped the ball with him and he was not adequately treated or held and he nearly killed an innocent man who will require lifelong care. The details are public record. Dr. Wehry wanted to have Evan Reposa released to an insecure group home before Evan was stable on his medications, and Evan was still hearing voices telling him what to do. Did Dr. Wehry even read Evan's medical records before she made this recommendation?

Fortunately, the judge in the case refuses to set Evan free. Proper treatment and care might have prevented this tragedy and huge amounts of monetary costs to the system. This is a horrible tragedy for Mike Kuligoski and his family and terrible for Evan and his family. The lack of a good mental health system is fully responsible for not preventing this. Commitment laws and confidentiality laws need to be changed to protect society and patients.

I feel Vermont deserves and needs a comprehensive mental hospital with a first rate mental health emergency room. I am not an expert on capacity but 50 to 75 beds seem reasonable based on Waterbury. To have a first rate facility it needs to be closely affiliated with The University of Vermont Medical School and UVM nursing, psychology and social work departments. The community mental health centers need to be linked in and something needs to be done to prevent the revolving door of community staff who are here one day and gone the next. Bad care is not cheap, it just pushes the cost somewhere else.

Beverly Frost

Sheffield, Vt.

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