Leaders of Rutland Regional Medical Center and Rutland Mental Health Services met Thursday with the Vermont House Corrections and Institutions Committee to discuss the addition of a proposed eight-bed, secure residential mental health program for adults on the campus of the hospital in Rutland.
The $6 million to $8 million new facility, if it’s approved and built, would bring about 24 full-time jobs to Rutland and could be constructed and open 18 months to two years after it’s approved.
On Friday, Claudio Fort, president and CEO of RRMC, Dr. Jeff McKee, vice president of community and behavioral health services at the hospital, and Dick Courcelle, CEO of Rutland Mental Health, met with the Vermont House Committee on Corrections and Institutions about the proposal, which asks the state to cover capital expenses while the local agencies would staff and run the facility.
Courcelle said the proposal would help restore some of the capacity lost when Tropical Storm Irene closed the state psychiatric hospital in Waterbury in 2011.
McKee said the level of care being proposed would fill an important need.
“It (serves) patients who still need a secure setting, meaning that they’re not able to manage themselves safely in the community without supervision, but they don’t (need a) hospital level of care. They don’t have daily nursing needs,” he said.
The new facility would allow a transition from hospital care to residential care and give patients a place to re-develop skills that would allow them to go back to living in the community, McKee added.
The 24 added jobs would include psychiatrists, nurses, social workers, mental health workers and other support staff.
The hospital and the community mental health services provider have been working on a proposal for a few years. Initially, the goal was to expand the number of secure mental health treatment beds. While the Legislature did not award a project based on the Rutland proposals, and proposals from other parts of the state, McKee said there has been renewed interest in replacing a temporary facility in Middlesex, which was created to directly respond to Vermont Psychiatric Hospital’s closure.
McKee said Rutland health professionals believe they could reduce patients’ length of stay if they had more capacity and new beds that fit into a cycle that gets patients the treatment they need with a clear transitional path to return people to the community.
Courcelle said Rutland Mental Health already had the Crisis Stabilization and Inpatient Diversion, and Maplewood Recovery on Stratton Road. Both have four beds.
“But this meets a different need. It’s been two years that we worked diligently on putting forth what we felt was a very strong partnership proposal between two agencies that bring the best of what they have to offer to this issue. The hospital, certainly, on its psychiatric care and hospitalization and transition, and then the Community Mental Health Agency, (or) Rutland Mental Health, on its community mental health services, case management, all those things that help an individual recover, go back to their regular life,” he said.
Fort said hospital administrators already have an idea where they would build the facility, although he expects local permits would be needed.
He said he hoped the state would recognize the need and accept the proposal so the project would not lose time by also going before the Green Mountain Care Board. If the Green Mountain Care Board approval isn’t waived, Fort said he expects RRMC and RMH officials would ask for an expedited process.
Fort said he believed the proposal was “well-received” by the House committee.
“I think they were very interested in this option. I’m sure there will be a number of options that are floated on how to do this but I believe (the committee members) felt our option had merit,” he said.
Fort said both RRMC and Rutland Mental Health were attractive options because of the organizations’ reputations and history.
“This isn’t our first rodeo. We could bring the training and the expertise we already have,” he said.
The project is also expected to be developed, if approved, in collaboration with the Vermont Department of Mental Health.