RUTLAND and BRATTLEBORO, VT -  Children experiencing an acute mental health crisis will have faster access to initial treatment thanks to a pilot project pairing emergency room doctors at Rutland Regional Medical Center with psychiatric specialists at the Brattleboro Retreat. Called the Vermont Emergency Telepsychiatry Network, the project is funded and managed by The Vermont Program for Quality in Health Care and is expected to be fully operational early next year.

The Vermont Program for Quality in Health Care, Inc. (VPQHC) received a $901,123 Congressionally Directed Spending grant from Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to support the coordination of a state-wide Vermont Emergency Telepsychiatry Network (VETN). This pilot project is one of a set of activities under the VETN umbrella that will ultimately lead to similar initiatives by pulling in stakeholders from various key sectors in health care.

"The Vermont Program for Quality in Health Care, Inc. is proud to be supporting the Vermont Emergency Tele-psychiatry Network partnership between Rutland Regional Medical Center and the Brattleboro Retreat to provide these critical services," said Catherine Fulton, Executive Director of VPQHC. "The funding from Senator Leahy's office has enabled two great teams to partner together through this innovative program to deliver urgently needed mental health care and treatment in the Emergency Department setting. We are so excited to see this valuable program move forward."

Rutland Regional Medical Center and the Brattleboro Retreat have noticed an increase in the need for mental health services over the past several years, but especially during the pandemic. Additionally, the increase in pediatric cases has been exponential during this same time.

“The negative impact the COVID pandemic has had on the mental health of our youth and our most vulnerable populations is staggering," said Senator Leahy who secured the funding for this program. "The Telehealth Psychiatry Services program will work to provide a creative solution by creating a network of care that is timely, efficient and effective. All of this effort will ultimately lead to better outcomes for young Vermonters who are struggling with mental illness. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration funding will allow for expedited crisis stabilization and a better quality of healthcare for all Vermonters.”

Hospital Emergency Departments are typically the first place someone comes to when going through a mental crisis.

"The emergency department is a busy place and can be scary, especially for our young patients going through a mental health crisis," said Alison Davis, MD, Medical Director of the ED at Rutland Regional Medical Center. "Pediatric patients who need inpatient care can wait days for an available bed. Connecting these patients with specialized psychiatric care as soon as possible is extraordinarily important. With this program, we will be able to initiate the right treatment and hopefully get them feeling better sooner."

Organizers are hopeful that the collaboration between Brattleboro Retreat and Rutland Regional on this pilot program will lead to the development of innovative solutions for expanding access to mental health services state-wide for Vermont's youth. The telehealth program will provide telepsychiatry consultation for children and adolescents who require inpatient hospitalization while they are waiting in the emergency department. Early access to psychiatric services will minimize the amount of time these patients have to wait before receiving critical and necessary health care.

"Providing timely mental health treatment to a pediatric patient in need is excellent patient care," said Karl Jeffries, MD, Chief Medical Officer at the Brattleboro Retreat. "We anticipate that this could lead to decreased lengths of hospitalization for those participating in our program, which would improve the overall accessibility of inpatient hospital beds for the entire Vermont mental health system."

The partners are finalizing and fine-tuning the processes and workflows with the goal of beginning the program on January 5, 2023. For additional information please visit Vermont Emergency Telepsychiatry Network here: Vermont Emergency Telepsychiatry Network


About Brattleboro Retreat

The Brattleboro Retreat, founded in 1834, is a not-for-profit, regional specialty psychiatric hospital and addictions treatment center, providing a full range of diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitation services for individuals of all ages and their families. Nationally recognized for its premier treatment in behavioral healthcare, the Brattleboro Retreat offers a high quality, individualized, comprehensive continuum of care including inpatient, partial hospitalization, residential and outpatient treatment.


About Rutland Regional Medical Center

Rutland Regional Medical Center is the largest community hospital in Vermont and is supported by a medical staff of 256 physicians, nurse practitioners and advance practice providers trained in 37 specialty areas. The 144-bed hospital is supported by approximately 1,800 employees. With a strong patient-centered focus, consistent quality performances, Magnet® Nursing Recognition, and award-winning care, Rutland Regional remains dedicated to improving the health of families and individuals throughout portions of southern and central Vermont and communities in eastern New York State with preventative, diagnostic, acute an rehabilitative services.