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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 MedicationProfiles: Vermont Mother; Paige Corologos; Anne Donahue; Marla SimpsonThis project was made possible by the VPR Journalism Fund. Learn more about the series State Of Mind.

State Of Mind Series Highlights Changes To The Mental Health System

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. All of the patients at the hospital had to be evacuated immediately and the facility was never reopened. The State Hospital had been funded entirely by state dollars for most of the last decade after safety and security issues caused the federal government to pull its certification. "Let's be candid," says Governor Peter Shumlin, "it was a dump. And we should have been out of there years and years ago."

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.

That's one of the issues explored in a new series airing on VPR October 21-24. Reported and produced by Vermont Edition Host Jane Lindholm, "State of Mind" takes a look at some of the pressure points in the mental health system. 

Explore The Entire Series: State Of Mind

In four reports to air during Vermont Edition at noon and 7 p.m., the series investigates the acute care system, the network of community mental health centers around the state that provide lower level care, the growing number of prisoners in state correctional facilities facing increasingly difficult mental disorders, and the controversial issue of involuntary medication.

The series also includes four profiles of Vermonters living with mental health issues. These essays will air during All Things Considered in conjunction with the reported pieces.

Lindholm says she has wanted to focus on the mental health system for a number of years. "It's a system that's very complex and complicated. I wanted to help people get a handle on how all the pieces fit together and see why there are parts of it that seem so difficult to get right—like how many beds we need to have for the sickest patients and why that number has become such a controversial one." Lindholm says it was also important to include the personal stories of people living with mental health diagnoses. "Many people are able to lead healthy, fulfilling lives after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. I wanted to highlight how they've done that. But we'll also hear about from one mother whose son has severe schizophrenia about how the disease has devastated not only his life but the lives of the whole family."

"State Of Mind" was reported and produced by Jane Lindholm with additional reporting by John Dillon, research assistance from Liz First Raddock, and web production by Tim Johnson. John Van Hoesen was the editor.

The project was made possible by the VPR Journalism Fund. Check out the full series here.

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