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Public Meetings Scheduled To Address Mental Health Crisis In Vermont

The Department of Mental Health will hold two meetings this week as it works on a report that addresses the crisis in Vermont's mental health care system.A shortage of beds in mental health care facilities has led to an increase in the number of people seeking psychiatric care in emergency rooms.

The Legislature this year passed S. 133, and lawmakers are looking for a long term solution to the problem.

They have asked the department to write a report, with recommendations, so the Legislature can work on the issue when they return to Montpelier in January.

On Tuesday July 25, an all-day meeting will be held at the Department of Mental Health in Waterbury, and a second session is planned for Thursday Aug. 17.

Mental health commissioner Melissa Bailey says the meetings will bring emergency room doctors, mental health patients and advocates together to talk about the problem.

"The hope is to have people to hear from each other, not just the department," Bailey said. "We think this is the best way to move something forward that will be the most appropriate in addressing what the issues are."

A two-hour meeting is also scheduled for Thursday July 27 in Waterbury to collect testimony on involuntary medication, as the state tries to take a comprehensive look at the mental health care system.

Lawmakers are looking for hard data on why people end up in emergency rooms, and where the biggest challenges are across Vermont.

The Agency of Human Services is expected to issue a status report in September, with a final report due in January.

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