UVM Health Network releases plan for $18M in mental health upgrades

Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 11:05 AM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - After years of back and forth with Vermont health care regulators, The University of Vermont Health Network now says it has a plan to spend $18 million earmarked for mental health care.

The network this week filed a proposal with the Green Mountain Care Board that outlines multiple initiatives. They include: a mental health urgent care clinic for Chittenden County; improvements to the psychiatric inpatient unit at Central Vermont Medical Center; resources for eating disorders; transgender care clinics for youth; expanded hours for ambulance transport; and expanded access to innovative treatments for patients with severe depression.

Back in 2018, the GMCB ordered the health network to set aside $21 million in surplus funds specifically to bring more adult mental health beds online in Vermont. The two parties agreed to build a $158 million adult inpatient psych facility at Central Vermont Medical Center, but the network scrapped the project last April.

“I think it’s a very good use of the dollars. The initial plan was to build an additional 25 beds at the Central Vermont Medical Center. That didn’t end up becoming tenable financially. So, $3 million that was spent on that planning process a number of years back. And so the remainder is what we’re using to invest in other aspects of mental health,” said the network’s Dr. Rob Althoff.

The GMCB in March granted the network leeway to use the money on any mental health resources rather than limiting the plan to a psych facility. GMCB officials say they are reviewing the new proposal and are hopeful that the proposed use of these funds will help Vermonters experiencing mental health challenges.

The plan now awaits final approval from the board.

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