Terri Hallenbeck, Free Press Staff Writer
MORRISVILLE — Ever since the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury was evacuated after Tropical Storm Irene hit in August 2011, mental health patients have been scattered to limited facilities around the state, sometimes being forced to stay several days in emergency rooms.
Next week, eight patients will find a little more stability in Morrisville. An acute-care facility opens Wednesday in a former nursing home. A 25-bed facility is also planned for Berlin.
Gov. Peter Shumlin toured the Green Mountain Psychiatric Care Center in Morrisville on Friday, noting that the 15 months since the state psychiatric hospital was flooded out have been nail-biting, finger-crossing tense.
“The fact that it hasn’t ended in more tragedy is a tribute to your skills,” Shumlin told the former state hospital employees who’ll work at the new facility.
Mary Moulton, interim mental health commissioner, said those employees have worked at nine locations since the flood.
Dr. Joel Silverstein, chief medical officer at Copley Hospital, a partner in the new facility, said the lack of mental health facilities was a big strain for many around the state.
The new facility cost $1.8 million to remodel, Shumlin said, and overcame a variety of challenges, including initial resistance by neighbors and the discovery of asbestos during construction.
The facility features eight patient rooms, each sparingly outfitted with a single bed and bean bag chair, in one wing of the building. Offices where the patients will receive services stretch down the other wing.
Human Services Secretary Doug Racine said the accommodations are much nicer than those of the state hospital in Waterbury, which the state had long sought to replace before the flood.
At first blush it appears more than eight patients could be accommodated at the Morrisville facility. Shumlin mentioned that as he peered into the rooms. Moulton said that’s the number the facility is licensed and staffed to accommodate.
“Eight beds sounds silly, but it’s going to make a huge difference,” said former Mental Health Commissioner Patrick Flood.
Retrieved 12/29/12 5:38 PM, EST