· The Vermont Department of Mental Health (DMH) began to solicit applications on Feb. 16 for grants that will pay for structural upgrades to supportive housing and community-based mental health facilities, with an aim of boosting safety and accessibility and improving service environments through projects such as ramp installations and HVAC renovations. At least one grant from the $400,000 pot of American Rescue Plan Act funds will go to a peer-run or peer-directed organization.
· On Feb. 22, Health Care and Rehabilitation Services (HCRS), the mental health agency for Windsor and Windham counties, announced that its youth outpatient services had moved to downtown White River Junction. The new location at 132 South Main Street includes a playroom for children.
· Only the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) had responded to DMH’s Jan. 28 request for proposals for a new inpatient psychiatric unit for children and adolescents by its Feb. 22 due date. According to a VTDigger report in the spring, UVMMC subsequently backed away from its proposal, at least temporarily, citing a $44 million budgetary deficit at the University of Vermont Health Network.
· Louis Josephson ended his six-year tenure as CEO of the Brattleboro Retreat in April after a winter of staffing challenges. His interim replacement, Linda Rossi, previously an executive vice president, reportedly became the first woman to serve as the head of the psychiatric hospital in its 188-year history.
· The University of Vermont Health Network (UVMHN) told the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB) in late April that for now it could not afford to build a new psychiatric unit at Central Vermont Medical Center. In the works since 2018, when regulators ordered an increase in UVMHN’s inpatient psychiatric inpatient capacity, the project would have added 25 beds at an estimated cost of $158 million. Weeks earlier, GMCB had denied a midyear application by UVMHN to raise the rates that its hospitals charge insurers by 10 percent.
· The Vermont Senate voted to confirm Jenney Samuelson as the Secretary of Human Services on May 2. A former deputy secretary, Samuelson had become interim secretary following the retirement, at the end of 2021, of Mike Smith, whose second stint leading the Agency of Human Services (AHS) began in 2019. AHS, the state’s largest agency, consists of DMH and five other departments.
· On May 6, following last year’s formal apology for a 1931 state law endorsing eugenics, the Vermont General Assembly passed a bill codifying a process to create a Truth and Reconciliation Commission that will identify historical instances of state-sanctioned discrimination against various populations, including people perceived to have mental or psychiatric disabilities, and will examine possible ways to overturn the lasting effects of such policies. The bill appropriates $748,000 in Fiscal Year 2023 for the commission, which will cost the state an estimated $4.5 million in total before disbanding in 2026.