Psych hospital with addiction services may close or be sold

January 5, 2020 GMT

Leaders of a Vermont hospital that is a critical provider of psychiatric and addiction services in the Green Mountain State said Sunday the facility faces the possibility of sale or closure amid a disagreement with state officials over funding.

The facility, Brattleboro Retreat, serves more than half the people in Vermont who need psychiatric care, and provides all of the child and adolescent psychiatric care in the state, according do its chief executive officer, Louis Josephson.

Michael Smith, secretary of Vermont’s Agency of Human Services, said Sunday he has rejected a request for an additional $2 million in funding from Brattleboro Retreat. That request would be in addition to a financial package valued at an estimated $16 million for new beds and a recent rate increase valued at an estimated $3.5 million per year, he said.

Smith said he rejected the request in part because he believes it would constitute a taxpayer bailout of financial miscalculations by Brattleboro Retreat’s management. But Josephson said the facility isn’t troubled by management problems — it needs more money from the state to be able to provide adequate patient services.

“The state of Vermont is not paying us enough to care for patients that they want us to care for,” Josephson said. “If they have a plan to get it done somewhere else, they are welcome to do that.”

Josephson sent a letter Friday to Smith and Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican, that said the facility cannot continue operating without more support from the state. It’s closure would mean finding services for 2,500 inpatients annually as well as filling new gaps for Suboxone treatment services, residential programs for children and meeting other critical health needs, the letter said.

Josephson’s letter also stated that Brattleboro Retreat’s board of trustees met in an emergency session on Friday morning and directed him to plan for sale or closure in the “very near future.”

Smith said in a statement that he will “communicate with the board and management that their decision must be executed in a manner that protects patient safety” on Monday. Other talks between the state and the facility are also expected in the coming days, a spokeswoman for Agency for Human Services said.

The agency has “provided every reasonable financial option it can” to help Brattleboro Retreat, and “just asking taxpayers to put up more money” is not the answer, Smith’s statement said.