Safety concerns resurface at Brattleboro Retreat


The Brattleboro Retreat, the state's largest psychiatric hospital, is straining to ensure the safety of patients and staff after recent attempts at suicide or self-harm and a violent incident that left several workers injured on a secure adolescent ward.

The Retreat's secure wards serve people with severe mental illness, including many who are in state custody. The Vermont Department of Mental Health has a contract with the Retreat to pay for the care of those patients.

In June, a survey of the facility by the state Division of Licensing and Protection revealed two patients had attempted suicide or self-harming behavior. It also exposed new violations of federal regulations.

The suicide attempt in May occurred in a secure inpatient ward. Six weeks later, the teenager died, though she was no longer a patient at the Retreat.

It's unclear from the report if the other incident -- for which it does not give a date -- was for self-harm or an attempted suicide, and Retreat officials said releasing more information would harm patient confidentiality.

On July 20, a violent altercation between several teenage patients injured eight staff members. Four were admitted to an emergency room, according to a statement from the Retreat. The statement mentions that three employees had not returned to work 10 days after the incident.

Staff injuries included head, neck and rib injuries due to kicking as well as bites to forearms. One patient was hospitalized with a dislocated shoulder.

The latest incidents at the facility are part of an "ongoing history of problems," said Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, a member of the Joint Committee on Mental Health Oversight, and the facility could do more to address them.

Frank Reed, deputy commissioner of the Department of Mental Health, told the Rutland Herald recently that the Department for Children and Families would review the event and investigate if necessary.

The state survey report found three violations of federal regulations at the Retreat. One was a reporting issue in which a nurse did not update a patient assessment to reflect a change in behavior. That patient later attempted suicide.

The survey also found a few safety violations.

According to its statement on the recent incidents, the state may conduct a follow-up survey to confirm the hospital is back in compliance with all federal regulations.


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