Resignation of DMH medical director expected to delay opening of Morrisville facility

Less than one month after the commissioner of Mental Health resigned, the department’s medical director is following suit.

These two blows have hit the Vermont Department of Mental Health during a vulnerable time, while it is in the middle of revamping how psychiatric care is provided in Vermont. When Tropical Storm Irene damaged the Vermont State Hospital and its 51 patients were relocated, its former medical director, Dr. Jay Batra, took on a major role in implementing an overhaul of the state’s mental health system.

The state is on the cusp of opening a slate of new psychiatric facilities, but — as Vermont Public Radio first reported — lawmakers and officials are concerned that Batra’s resignation will delay this process.

“The biggest immediate issue is it’s going to cause a delay in opening the Morrisville facility,” said Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, who co-chairs the Mental Health Oversight Committee.

The facility in question is the eight-bed Green Mountain Psychiatric Care Center at Lamoille Community Connections in Morrisville. State officials indicated on Monday that it would be open by the end of the month.

“Hopefully it won’t be a long delay,” said Donahue. “But the department won’t be able to open the Morrisville facility with a medical director who is about to leave and not have a person to take his place.”

Interim Commissioner of Mental Health Mary Moulton said that Batra submitted his official resignation Tuesday morning. He is taking a position in the private sector, although neither Moulton nor Donahue would say where. Batra wasn’t immediately available for comment.

Since Batra notified Moulton, she’s been scrambling to find a new medical director. Working with Fletcher Allen Health Care, she’s reached out to a “short list” of psychiatrists recommended by the state’s largest health care provider.

“I’ve been on the phone most of the day examining options that would be available for us to locate a medical director, even if it’s an acting medical director,” she said Tuesday evening.

The Morrisville facility, she acknowledged, is her most immediate concern, but she doesn’t expect Batra’s resignation to delay the opening of other facilities. In addition to the medical director position, she is also looking for a deputy commissioner to fill the role she vacated when she was called on to take over for Patrick Flood.

Moulton is also trying to reduce mental health wait times in emergency facilities while her department is short-staffed. To add to the interim commissioner’s heavy workload, Gov. Peter Shumlin has said Moulton would help him conduct a nationwide search for a new commissioner.

“For us, the timing is not optimal,” said Moulton. “It’s definitely a blow that Jay is leaving. I have to admit, we’re feeling a sense of loss.”

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Andrew SteinAndrew Stein

Comments

  1. Dale Tillotson :

    Appears Gov. Shumlins appointments in his first term had no long term commitments to Vt. and it’s citizens. This will become evident in the long term of Vermonters. Looks like Shumlin only takes seriously the short term of his appointees and not the future of Vt. This needs to be a campaign issue in 2014, so lets not forget it. I challenge any opponent of the Governor in 2014, shall Shumlin run to make it an issue.

  2. David Dempsey :

    15 monthes after Irene there is still no residential facility for the the beds lost in the flood at the Vermont Stae Hopsital. Yet the Shumlin administration continues to make emergency rooms around the state substitute for the Vermont State Hospital. Thes hosptials don’t have an adequately trained staff to deal with patients that need critical care. At least they have a couch to sleep on util a bed opens up somewhere in New England. Shumlin told lawmakers last session that they needed to pass his mental health bill because there was a crisis situation. The bill passed, but Shumlin has done nothing since to get out of the crisis. During a debate with Randy Brock he said he wouldn’t have sent his dog to the Vermont State Hospital because it was such a bad place. But he doesn’t care that a lot former VSH patients have become homeless and have no way to get their medicine. When a displaced VSH patient kills herself by setting herself on fire at a gas station in Burlington, the Shumlin administration again did nothing. With the lack of support from thae administration, it is easy to understand why so many VSH employees who survived the cut have left VSH.

  3. Amanda Preston :

    With the resignation of the Commissioner of Mental Health and the Medical Director, all roads lead to the state’s inappropriate relationship with The Brattleboro Retreat. After the closure of VSH, the state entered into a more or less exclusive partnership with The Brattleboro Retreat. $5.3 million in state tax payer dollars were given to the Retreat executives to bring Retreat facilities up to state standards. An additional $8,600,000.00 were provided to the Retreat in the 2012 budget for the Department of Mental Health. The cost to keep mental health patients in the custody of the Commissioner of Mental health at the Retreat is $1,500.00/day. State tax payers pay 60% of this and Medicaid covers about 40%. Despite all these monies being directed to The Brattleboro Retreat in the past year, Retreat CEO Rob Simpson just laid off the 31 workers that comprise the entire therapeutic services staff at the Retreat. His justification? Simpson claims The Retreat had taken out $8 million in loans to fund renovations and have a current obligation of $750,000.00 they could not make. If this is the case, what on earth happened to all the money the state gave them? Now that the state has received word from FEMA that we won’t be compensated for these monies, the state plans to issue about $20 million in bonds for the state-owned facility that is going to be built in Berlin. With over $100 million in cuts to the Department of Human Services the past two fiscal years, this sure seems like a lot of money being unaccounted for. Batra probably wants to get out of the fire before others take notice and start asking questions.

  4. Found out from Dr. Jay Batra this morning that his new employer will be the nonprofit Vermont Health CO-OP (Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan).

    • i.e., if I heard and understood him correctly.

      Did not get around to asking about what his title and position would be.

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