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Feds Warn Brattleboro Retreat Over Safety Issues

Brattleboro Retreat is in jeopardy of losing federal funding if it does not fix problems identified in an inspection this summer.
Toby Talbot
AP File Photo
Brattleboro Retreat is in jeopardy of losing federal funding if it does not fix problems identified in an inspection this summer.

For the second time in three years, the Brattleboro Retreat faces a potential loss in federal funding because of a failed inspection. Despite the warnings, the state’s commissioner of mental health says he’s still confident that the retreat can provide quality care.

The federal warning comes after a suicide attempt at theBrattleboroRetreat in June which, after retreat staff notified the state, prompted a site visit of the facility.

The visit resulted in a number of findings, the two most serious deal with patient safety issues that jeopardized the retreat’s standing with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

CMS warned the retreat in a July 8 letter that its federal funding would be revoked if it didn’t have fixes in place by October 6.

The first finding had to do with an incident in which a key broke off in the lock to a patient room.

According to Kanstantin von Krusenstiern, thevice president of strategy and development at the retreat, theinspection found that “while we fixed the door, that the retreat did not have the process in place, the safety process in place making sure A, that that’s not going to happen again, or B, if it happened in a situation that was important, like there was somebody on the other side of the door that was in distress or something, that we had a process of dealing with that.”

The other finding had to do with a broken light fixture in an elevator, which inspectors worried could be used by a patient to hurt themselves or others.

The retreat fixed the light fixture and came up with a plan to correct the other issues the inspection found.

Krusenstiern says CMS has accepted the retreat’s plan, and the facility will keep its federal funding as long as it passes an unannounced inspection sometime before the October 6 deadline.

As part of the state’s new treatment model, department of mental health contracts for 14 beds at the retreat for patients under state care.

Despite some reports that the retreat has been tight-lipped with lawmakers about its status, Vermont Mental Health Commissioner Paul Dupre said retreat officials have done a good job of keeping the state informed.

"The retreat has been, I would say, very forthcoming with the department," he said. "They have called us even on incidents that are not necessarily under my care."

Dupre said Brattleboro Retreat officials usually tell lawmakers directly about any issues. But even if they don't, the department of mental health gives notice to lawmakers.

And even though the retreat’s federal funding has been in jeopardy twice since 2011, Dupre says the facility is doing well in difficult situations.

"The retreat is working with folks with very complex emotional issues, and some of the things going on are things that are probably going to be – they’re going to happen in this type of facility."

Inspectors will be back at Brattleboro Retreat soon to see if the facility will be able to keep its federal funding.

Copyright 2014 Vermont Public Radio

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.

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