• In the fall, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets and the Agency of Human Services announced the receipt of a USDA grant that will fund “expanded stress and mental health services” for Vermont farmers. The state-sponsored nonprofit Farm First will administer the programs, which will include a new “a peer support network of farmers” that will facilitate connections through online “interactive mapping.”

• Organized by Rethinking Psychiatry and MindFreedom, the first International Peer Respite/Soteria Summit took place virtually between Oct. 3 and 31. Over the course of five sessions featuring an array of guest speakers, more than 500 registrants learned about alternatives to psychiatric hospitals and how to advocate for them in their communities. Video recordings are available here.

• Construction began on the Vermont Department of Mental Health’s new step-down residence in Essex in October, starting with the demolition of the old Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center on the site. The state projects completion by the end of 2022.

• For 30 days, starting Oct. 25, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) opened 10 inpatient psychiatric beds in White River Junction to non-veterans. The Vermont Department of Human Services and the VA formed the agreement “in response to strains in hospital emergency rooms due to higher volumes of patients requiring inpatient mental healthcare,” according to a press release.

• By the end of November, the Vermont Department of Mental Health had received six responses to a request for information (RFI) that would assist in the development of programming for any future “unlocked community residences” for psychiatric patients. Respondents included the Counseling Service of Addison County, Washington County Mental Health Services, Inner Fire, and the Rutland Mental Health Community Care Network. The state legislature mandated the RFI as a condition for funding the aforementioned locked residence in Essex in last year’s capital bill.

• Per a nationwide survey published in January by QuoteWizard, Vermont has a higher percentage of hospitals suffering from critical staffing shortages (69%) than any other state.

• Dr. Kelly-Anne Klein became the Department of Mental Health’s new medical director in January. Klein previously served as the medical director for Rochester Regional Health in New York and, before that, as the medical director of emergency psychiatry at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

• VTDigger reported on Jan. 19 that Superior Judge Cortland Corsones had ruled in favor of a prosecutor’s request for a second psychiatric evaluation of Darren Pronto, who allegedly killed a woman with a knife in downtown Bennington a year ago, after the first evaluation, requested by his attorney, declared him incompetent to stand trial. The victim’s mother lobbied last year for S.3, a new law that permits prosecutors to ask the court for the right to call upon their own experts to deliver second opinions in such cases.

• The State Program Standing Committee for Children’s Mental Health is looking for new members – especially “youth with lived experience,” “family members of those with lived experience,” mental health workers, and “other interested community members. The committee, which meets monthly in Waterbury or online, reviews the state’s mental health services and offers input to the Department of Mental Health, which provides a stipend for members. Applicants can contact [email protected].

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