State Of Mind: Mental Health Series

In a series of special reports and personal profiles, VPR News explores mental health issues in Vermont.

Reports: The Acute Care System; Community Mental Health; Corrections; Involuntary Medication

Profiles: Vermont Mother; Paige Corologos; Anne Donahue; Marla Simpson

This project was made possible by the VPR Journalism Fund. Learn more about the series State Of Mind.

VPR/Jane Lindholm

There’s been a spotlight on Vermont’s mental health care system since Tropical Storm Irene slammed into Vermont and flooded the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury.

Now, Vermont is building a state-of-the-art new facility in Berlin. But many mental health professionals worry the new hospital won’t relieve the pressure on the system, pressures that currently have patients waiting for days in emergency rooms before a space becomes available in a psychiatric ward in one of the community hospitals.

Vermont Edition hosts Jane Lindholm and Bob Kinzel
VPR

All this week Vermont Edition has looked at the mental health care system in Vermont and some of the biggest issues policy makers are grappling with since Tropical Storm Irene flooded out the original state hospital in the series, State Of Mind.

VPR’s Jane Lindholm reported the special series and she talked with Vermont Edition co-host, Bob Kinzel, about some of the key issues.

VPR's series of special reports on mental health care in Vermont, "State of Mind," includes personal stories of Vermonters who have lived with mental health struggles.

One of the hot-button issues in Vermont’s mental health system right now is the question of how quickly doctors should be able to intervene when a patient in a psychiatric hospital is refusing medication. The debate is likely to heat up in the state legislature this winter. For people who struggle with severe mental illness, this is not a political debate. It’s a very personal experience.

Flickr: benchilada 2467405983

VPR's special series, "State of Mind," on Vermont's mental health system, concludes with the controversial issue of involuntary medication, or what opponents call forced drugging.

A discussion and potential fight loom in the state legislature this winter over changing the process for when a doctor may administer anti-psychotic medication to a patient refusing treatment in a psychiatric hospital.

The Experience of Involuntary Medication

VPR's series of special reports on mental health care in Vermont, "State of Mind," includes personal stories of Vermonters who have lived with mental health struggles.

State Representative Anne Donahue serves on the Mental Health Oversight Committee and edits a mental health newsletter in Vermont. Throughout her years in the legislature, she’s been a vocal supporter of patients’ rights. Her struggles with depression informed her desire to speak up for those with mental illness.

Here is her story.

Courtesy, the Vermont Department of Corrections

In VPR's special series 'State of Mind," we're looking at the increasing pressure on Vermont's mental health system.

It's been in the spotlight since Tropical Storm Irene irreparably damaged the State Hospital in Waterbury. We've considered acute care and designated agencies.

Today we go inside the Vermont correctional system, which is bearing a significant responsibility for housing and treating people with mental illness.

Specialized Prison Units

VPR's series of special reports on mental health care in Vermont, "State of Mind," includes personal stories of Vermonters who have lived with mental health struggles.

Paige Corologos lives happily on a leafy street in Burlington’s Old North End with her husband and daughter. But there have been times in her life that have not been so stable. Corologos has bipolar disorder. She says she’s always been open about it because she doesn’t want mental illness to live in the shadows.

Here is her story:

VPR/Jane Lindholm

In a special series of reports, VPR is examining Vermont's mental health system: where it works and where it doesn't.

Previously, we examined the state's plan for the new state hospital and acute care facilities. The new system has fewer beds for the most severely ill patients than it did when the old state hospital in Waterbury was in service.

Special focus has been placed on how the state delivers care to mentally ill Vermonters ever since the State Hospital was flooded in Tropical Storm Irene more than two years ago. Politicians, doctors, and activists have debated how many beds are needed for the sickest patients, how much money should be spent on community mental health centers, and what kinds of programs might work best. But sometimes lost in the mix are the stories of those dealing with mental illness.

VPR/Jane Lindholm

Vermonters know the first part of this story: Tropical Storm Irene slammed into Vermont and flooded the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury. Patients were moved to other facilities and the state had to take action on a long-debated idea – a new mental health care hospital.

Now, more than two years later, construction is underway, but there is a big question: Will it work? State Of Mind is a series of special reports exploring the pressure points in our state mental health care system.

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