• State hospital replacement beds ready in Rutland
    By Brent Curtis
     | April 04,2013

    A new psychiatric wing at Rutland Regional Medical Center will begin housing patients who in the past would have been treated at the Vermont State Hospital.

    Eighteen months after Tropical Storm Irene closed the state hospital for good, a six-bed secure wing at the hospital will open Monday to serve patients with severe and acute psychiatric needs, according to Jeff McKee, director of psychiatric services at the hospital.

    “We’re very excited,” McKee said. “Our community needed us to do this, to take it on. We’re very excited to be able to provide this level of care.”

    The new addition, dubbed the “South Wing,” will operate in a renovated space on the fourth floor next to, but separate from, the hospital’s existing 16-bed psychiatric unit, McKee said.

    Unlike the existing facility, the South Wing will be a closed unit with twice the number of staff to care for only six patients.

    Patients admitted to the new wing will all have acute needs and could pose risks to both themselves and others, McKee said. But they will be housed and cared for in a locked facility that is self-contained with its own consultation rooms, dining areas and recreational rooms.

    “It’s a much safer place for patients who may try to harm themselves or others than exists in our other unit,” McKee said.

    The wing’s staff will include a full-time psychiatrist and a full-time psychologist, along with close to 30 psychiatric nurses and other staff.

    The new facility is one of several opening this year and next year to replace the 54 beds lost at the state hospital.

    A 14-bed inpatient unit at the Brattleboro Retreat is scheduled to open next week and an eight-bed facility in Morrisville began treating patients in January. State mental health officials hope to open a 25-bed facility in Berlin by April of 2014.

    “We’re making a good hit at what’s needed for both inpatient and aftercare but we know we have a long way to go,” said Frank Reed, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Mental Health. “We’re hopeful.”

    Reed, McKee and Dan Quinn, executive director of Rutland Mental Health Services, are also hoping the new psychiatric beds will help reduce the burden on emergency rooms statewide where psychiatric patients have been housed for prolonged periods of time since the state hospital’s closing.

    In Rutland County, where only a handful of psychiatric beds exist outside RRMC, the need is particularly acute, Quinn said.

    “We’re way short in Rutland,” he said of the community-based beds. “We should be at 15 or 18 beds, but we have four right now.”

    RMHS is preparing to begin construction this spring on a facility that will add four more psychiatric beds designed for long-term recovery in the community.

    “We need community-based beds which other counties already have,” Quinn said.

    brent.curtis@ rutlandherald.com

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