Let’s Not Fix the Mental Health System and Say We Did

Oh, great. The state’s Department of Mental Health is finalizing a ten-year plan to improve the state’s inadequate mental health care system. The highlights, errrrr lowlights, include:

  • It doesn’t appear to address the system’s biggest shortfall, i.e. the lack of resources for the worst cases.
  • It echoes the approach promulgated by the Shumlin administration and legislature after Tropical Storm Irene. Which, for those just joining us, failed to do what it promised.
  • There seems to be nothing about the lack of resources in the prison system.
  • There’s nothing about providing more funding to put the plan into action.

So there’s that.

The report focuses on linking treatment of mental and physical illness, “eliminating stigma around mental health and expanding community-based treatment programs.” That’s nice. But meanwhile, people with profound mental illnesses continue to be stuck in hospital emergency rooms in greater numbers and for longer periods.

That has nothing to do with “stigma” or “community-based treatment programs.” It has everything to do with Vermont’s lack of capacity to treat our severely mentally ill. That’s been a problem since Irene damaged the state hospital at Waterbury.

In the wake of Irene, the Shumlin administration ignored the advice of its own mental health care leaders and, instead of replacing the lost beds in Waterbury, chose to add substantially fewer beds while promising to strengthen “community-based” mental health care services.

Which (a) it failed to do, and (b) ignored the fact that while better community-based services would help a lot of folks, it would do nothing to address the needs of those whose illnesses are already beyond the scope of community-based solutions.

So here we are, eight years after Irene and rebooting the same approach that didn’t work before. Not to mention the same approach to financing that didn’t work before:

The 10-year plan, which will be sent to the Legislature this January, does not have a proposed budget attached to the decade-long vision.

Yeah, that’ll work. Shall I guess how the legislature will proceed?

Expressions of concern about the system and gratitude for all the hard work that went into the 10-year plan, a gradual erosion of implementation measures, an earnest bemoaning of the tight budget situation, and a failure to put any money where the needs are.

Looking forward to the next 10-year plan, to be released in the year 2030.


1 thought on “Let’s Not Fix the Mental Health System and Say We Did

  1. Robert Oeser

    The area involving discharge planning I found of interest in that, the way I read this, there are three stages proposed to implement discharge planning that begins at admission. And, that’s it. In 10 years? Nothing appears be mentioned about having a discharge plan that is actionable, and with a so-called “warm hand-off.”
    My notes: Begging? (Enhanced Discharge Planning)


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