Rutland Mental Health project restored
By Brent Curtis
STAFF WRITER | February 16,2013
Funding for a mental health treatment facility in Rutland has been restored after being cut from Gov. Peter Shumlin’s budget, according to local mental health officials and legislators.
Rutland Mental Health Services has been planning for months to build a four-bed facility next to an existing treatment center at 195 Stratton Road.
Dan Quinn, president of RMHS, said that to build and operate the facility his organization was counting on $1.3 million from the state.
But after months of planning with the state Department of Mental Health, he said, his group learned that the funding had been cut from the governor’s budget.
“We had a public hearing lined up and had started clearing the site when we got a call about two weeks ago to stop everything because the funding is gone,” Quinn said.
The news was a blow to Quinn, who said the quality and availability of mental health treatment in Rutland County had taken a severe blow since Tropical Storm Irene flooded and forced the closure of the Vermont State Hospital in August 2011.
Hospital beds for long-term psychiatric care have been hard to come by since the storm, meaning that many mental health patients have had to go without, Quinn said.
“Imagine having a heart attack and getting turned away at the hospital because they’re out of beds,” he said. “That’s what people with mental health needs are going through right now.”
And while the lack of psychiatric beds has been felt statewide, Quinn said, the need has been most acute in Rutland County where no long-care treatment beds are available.
“Everyone else has something except us,” he said. “We should have 13 of this type of bed. We have zero.”
The $500,000 facility Quinn is preparing to build in the city would care for mental health patients coming out of hospitalization for anywhere from three months to a year. The facility would provide transitional housing and treatment provided by a staff consisting of therapists, nurses and other mental health providers.
Almost all of the $1.3 million that RMHS has sought from the state would pay for staffing at the facility. Construction of the building will be funded by RMHS, with the state repaying that investment over 20 years, Quinn said.
The $1.3 million was absent from the governor’s budget when it was presented to the Legislature last month.
But after a meeting last week between Quinn, members of the administration and much of the Rutland County legislative delegation, the money has been restored.
Quinn heaped praise on the local lawmakers for their efforts, but House and Senate members said they believed the budget cut was more a misunderstanding between the state and RHMS than anything else.
“I think what we had was a clear classic case of miscommunication,” said Rep. Peter Fagan, R-Rutland.
Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland, said state administrators believed the Rutland project wasn’t ready for construction when it was cut from the budget.
“I think that was a miscommunication that we got straightened out,” he said. “The Office of Finance and Management wasn’t aware the project was as far along as it was.”