RUTLAND – A total of 54 people responded to the summer Counterpoint poll question, with overwhelming support for the creation of more peer-run community centers and respite beds over the addition of hospital beds to improve the state’s mental health system.
The poll was added to the Vermont Psychiatric Survivors Facebook page for the first time, and 46 people responded there. Only three of them voted for the addition of hospital beds.
Fifteen percent of responses came in on the telephone poll line, and only one person said they supported adding beds – and that person said that the peer programs should be added as well.
The 54 responses, with 93 percent voting for the peer support options, were the most ever to a Counterpoint poll.
The question read: “During the most recent legislative session, VPS advocated that instead of adding more hospital beds, the state invest in prevention and early intervention by developing in every Vermont county peer-run community centers that include two-bed, peer respites.
“Which would you choose to improve Vermont’s mental health system? For more hospital beds, vote ‘Yes.’ For a network of peer-run community centers that include two-bed peer respites, vote ‘No.’”
One caller who answered “no” commented, “I think that peer respite would be a huge improvement over the present system and it would be better than adding hospital beds.”
The other person who left a comment went into detail.
“Adding hospital beds in response to prolonged waits at emergency rooms puts resources into basically the back end of the problem rather than the front end,” the caller said.
“If people had somewhere like a peer respite, they wouldn’t need to go to the emergency room. In fact, most people I speak to would prefer to go somewhere like a peer respite instead of an emergency room.”
The caller suggested that “the availability of peer respite probably would prevent even the level of crisis or situations that would involve an emergency room and so, much more cost effective in the long run and ultimately better for people, less traumatic.”
The caller concluded by saying that there was “lots of evidence of the trauma involved in both ER and hospital stays” and that peer respite would be “ultimately more supportive of the person’s life, recovery, wellness, whatever it is that they’re looking for.”
The new poll question in this issue of Counterpoint addresses the use of court orders for outpatient treatment, known as orders of nonhospitalization, or an ONH.
This spring the legislature directed the Department of Mental Health to evaluate the “strengths and weaknesses” of ONHs, including reviewing studies about “whether or not outpatient commitment and involuntary treatment orders improve patient outcomes.”
A news report of the work group meeting discussions on that issue this summer appears on page 8.
The new poll question asks, “Are involuntary outpatient commitments (called ONHs) of value to psychiatric survivors?”