An alternative to hospitalization

Short-term mental health facility to open on Putney Road

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BRATTLEBORO — A short-term inpatient facility for youths experiencing psychiatric crises is looked at as an alternative to hospitalization that is cheaper and less intensive than other forms of treatment.

"There has been a huge need in Brattleboro for a long time," Chuck Myers, executive director of Northeastern Family Institute Vermont, told the Reformer during an open house event Monday.

The state's second hospital diversion program is a collaboration between his group and the Springfield-based Health Care and Rehabilitation Services.

A similar program run in South Burlington has been in operation for nearly 30 years.

The building at 945 Putney Road in Brattleboro was purchased last spring. Myers said renovations and an addition cost a few hundred-thousand dollars.

Six clients, from ages 10 to 18, can stay at the facility at a time. The typical stay will last seven to 10 days. The hope is to open in March.

"Kids who can't be served here will go to the Brattleboro Retreat," Myers said, referring to the nearby mental health and addictions hospital.

The hospital diversion program costs clients about half the price of a stay at the Retreat, Myers said, noting that the hospital is supportive of the project. Retreat President and CEO Louis Josephson attended the open house as did local emergency service providers.

The Putney Road facility will not have nursing staff 24 hours a day. But a psychiatrist and psychiatric nurse practitioner will meet with clients during their stay.

Clients will take part in individual and group therapies. They will identify treatment goals and guardians will offer their input before specialists provide recommendations.

"We definitely take a team approach in our work," Anne Peterson, assistant regional director at NFI, told the Reformer.

The building will be "staff secured" rather than "lock secured," she said. Guests will enter a waiting room and only gain access once they are "buzzed in" and a staff member physically opens the door for them.

On the first floor, Peterson showed the Reformer a living room for clients with a television and couches, a dining room and spacious kitchen, staff offices, storage spaces, bedrooms, two family rooms for the intake process and a conference room. A "chill room" will feature bongos, guitars and an electric piano.

"Music is a great medium for kids to calm themselves when they're wound up," said Peterson.

Upstairs has more offices and space used by staff, and an activity room where clients can do yoga and play games.

Peterson said clients will do their own laundry during their stay. Rooms are cleaned and searched between stays.

Peterson expects to have a waiting list of clients. She said clinicians and residential specialists are now being hired.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

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