Irene-prompted reforms make positive changes in mental health care

MONTPELIER — Before he turned even 20, Ivan Deutsch had been through 20 foster families, 15 visits to the psych ward, and more run-ins with police than he cares to remember.
For his entire teenage life, Deutsch suffered the slings of a mental illness that robbed him of a normal childhood. Thanks to a newly sprouted eight-bed residential treatment facility in Westminster, however, Deutsch said the future has finally started to look promising.
“If they hadn’t stuck with me like they had, I wouldn’t be here right now talking to you,” Deutsch told a panel of lawmakers Thursday. “I thought I was always going to be on the borderline of not living. But thanks to Hilltop, I made it.”
Amid the persistent turmoil of a mental health system under siege, Ivan Deutsch, and the Hilltop Recovery Residence that helped save him, offer at least a glimmer of hope for the reformation of a mental health system plunged into crisis by Tropical Storm Irene.
Nearly two years have passed since the historic floods inundated the state’s 52-bed psychiatric hospital, crippling the state’s ability to care for its most acutely ill residents. Vermonters experiencing psychotic breaks saw their wait times in emergency rooms spike to all-time highs in May, and Gov. Peter Shumlin himself has described the lack of secure, in-patient hospital beds as a disaster waiting to happen. But amid all the bad news — and there is plenty — come stories like the one told by Deutsch, in which programs borne out of a wide-ranging mental health bill passed in 2012 are beginning to offer help to Vermonters who might not previously have gotten it.
“We are able to do things today that we would not have been able to do two years ago, and it’s having an incredibly positive impact on our ability to intervene in meaningful ways,” says George Karabakakis, chief operating officer of Health Care and Rehabilitation Services of southern Vermont.
Landmark legislation passed in Irene’s wake placed a new emphasis on community-based interventions. Instead of plowing state resources into another 50-plus bed state hospital, lawmakers and administration officials opted for heightened investments in earlier-stage interventions they said would prevent many patients from ever needing involuntary in-patient committals.
Whether the 25-bed facility now under construction in Berlin will prove adequate for the segment of patients that will inevitably need hospital-level care remains an open question. But Karabakakis said he’s convinced the investments at his organization have headed off situations that would have otherwise devolved into crisis.

MONTPELIER — Before he turned even 20, Ivan Deutsch had been through 20 foster families, 15 visits to the psych ward, and more run-ins with police than he cares to remember.
—- For his entire teenage life, Deutsch suffered the slings of a mental illness that robbed him of a normal childhood. Thanks to a newly sprouted eight-bed residential treatment facility in Westminster, however, Deutsch said the future has finally started to look promising.
—- “If they hadn’t stuck with me like they had, I wouldn’t be here right now talking to you,” Deutsch told a panel of lawmakers Thursday. “I thought I was always going to be on the borderline of not living. But thanks to Hilltop, I made it.”
—- Amid the persistent turmoil of a mental health system under siege, Ivan Deutsch, and the Hilltop Recovery Residence that helped save him, offer at least a glimmer of hope for the reformation of a mental health system plunged into crisis by Tropical Storm Irene.
—- Nearly two years have passed since the historic floods inundated the state’s 52-bed psychiatric hospital, crippling the state’s ability to care for its most acutely ill residents. Vermonters experiencing psychotic breaks saw their wait times in emergency rooms spike to all-time highs in May, and Gov. Peter Shumlin himself has described the lack of secure, in-patient hospital beds as a disaster waiting to happen.
—- <saxo:ch value=”226 128 168″/> But amid all the bad news — and there is plenty — come stories like the one told by Deutsch, in which programs borne out of a wide-ranging mental health bill passed in 2012 are beginning to offer help to Vermonters who might not previously have gotten it.
—- “We are able to do things today that we would not have been able to do two years ago, and it’s having an incredibly positive impact on our ability to intervene in meaningful ways,” says George Karabakakis, chief operating officer of Health Care and Rehabilitation Services of southern Vermont.
—- <saxo:ch value=”226 128 168″/> Landmark legislation passed in Irene’s wake placed a new emphasis on community-based interventions. Instead of plowing state resources into another 50-plus bed state hospital, lawmakers and administration officials opted for heightened investments in earlier-stage interventions they said would prevent many patients from ever needing involuntary in-patient committals.
—- Whether the 25-bed facility now under construction in Berlin will prove adequate for the segment of patients that will inevitably need hospital-level care remains an open question. But Karabakakis said he’s convinced the investments at his organization have headed off situations that would have otherwise devolved into crisis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *