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Friday, November 10, 2017

Lawyer: DCF Shooter 'Erroneously' Released From Psychiatric Care Before Killing Four

Posted By on Fri, Nov 10, 2017 at 1:32 PM

Jody Herring, 40, during an arraignment in Washington Superior Court - FILE: TOBY TALBOT, ASSOCIATED PRESS
  • File: Toby Talbot, Associated Press
  • Jody Herring, 40, during an arraignment in Washington Superior Court
A woman who murdered a Department for Children and Families caseworker and three others in 2015 was "erroneously" released from inpatient psychiatric care at Rutland Regional Medical Center weeks before the killings, her attorney alleges in a document filed in Washington Superior Court.

Two months before the murders, Jody Herring was deemed a "threat to herself and others," and a psychiatrist recommended that she spend 90 days undergoing involuntary psychiatric treatment. But she was released from the hospital after less than a week in what her attorney calls a "failure" of the mental health system.

On what would have been day 68 of a 90-day hospital stay, Herring gunned down DCF worker Lara Sobel in downtown Barre. Three of her own relatives — her aunt, Julie Falzarano, and cousins Regina Herring and Rhonda Herring — were later found shot to death in Berlin.

"If Rutland Regional Medical Center and the Vermont Attorney General's Office had done the right thing, Jody Herring would have been locked up involuntarily in a psychiatric facility, in Rutland, Vermont, on [the day of the killings]," her attorney, David Sleigh, wrote in a sentencing memorandum filed in Washington Superior Court. "These four tragic and unnecessary deaths are the result of one the biggest failures of the mental health system in the state of Vermont's history."

In July, Herring pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and three counts of second-degree murder. Facing life in prison, she is scheduled to be sentenced next week in Washington Superior Court. The hearing is set to commence Monday, and could last several days.

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Few Vermont Inmates Receive Heralded New Addiction Treatment

Posted By on Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 6:32 PM

  • Dreamstime
Nearly two years after Vermont launched a federally funded program to provide a new opiate addiction treatment to inmates, only 11 of them have received it.

At a widely covered press conference in December 2015, then-governor Peter
Shumlin announced that a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services would allow the state to start providing Vivitrol to inmates about to be released from prison, as well as to patients at residential treatment facilities.

Vivitrol reduces cravings and blocks opiate highs for about a month. For inmates who haven't been able to access treatment such as methadone or Suboxone while in prison, it can serve as a bridge, giving them some stability while they line up a longer-term recovery plan. Studies have shown that recently incarcerated people are at a heightened risk of overdosing.

The initiative attracted national attention when it was launched, but it's only benefited a handful of inmates. DOC has administered 11 injections since the start of the three-year pilot in 2016 — 10 at Marble Valley Regional Correctional Facility in Rutland, where the program was first launched, and one at Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington.

“That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a lot compared to what we started with. For months and months and months we were at one person, so an increase to 11 is actually pretty good,” said Corrections Commissioner Lisa Menard.

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Vermont Prisons to Expand Opiate Treatment for Inmates

Posted By on Tue, Nov 7, 2017 at 3:21 PM

  • Matt Morris
The Vermont Department of Corrections is expanding treatment for inmates battling opiate addiction following a November 1 Seven Days article that examined the department’s practice of limiting such treatment.

Inmates at all state prisons who have prescriptions for methadone or buprenorphine (aka Suboxone) will be able to receive those medications, which diminish cravings and temper the side effects of heroin withdrawal, for up to 120 days, Commissioner Lisa Menard confirmed in an email Tuesday. Previously, inmates at two facilities received a 90-day maximum of medication-assisted treatment, while MAT was only available for 30 days at the other state jails.

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Friday, November 3, 2017

Tom Pelham Appointed to Green Mountain Care Board

Posted By on Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 3:55 PM

  • Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Tom Pelham
Gov. Phil Scott has appointed former lawmaker and state official Tom Pelham to fill the fifth seat on the Green Mountain Care Board.

Pelham, who replaces Con Hogan, has held multiple posts under four previous governors. He was tax commissioner for Republican Jim Douglas; finance commissioner under Democrat Howard Dean, and commissioner and deputy commissioner of housing and community affairs under Democrat Madeleine Kunin and Republican Richard Snelling.

The Green Mountain Care Board, which regulates Vermont's health care system and oversees the state's reform efforts, has undergone significant turnover this year. Pelham is the third person Scott has appointed over six months, joining Maureen Usifer and board chair Kevin Mullin.

Pelham, who identifies as an independent, was elected a state representative in 2002, and he served one year. More recently, he cofounded the public policy organization Campaign for Vermont with Bruce Lisman, who challenged Scott in the Republican primary for governor.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Bread & Butter Farm Ground Beef Recalled for E. coli Risk

Posted By on Fri, Oct 13, 2017 at 6:22 PM

A full house at Burger Night - FILE/STACEY BRANDT
  • file/Stacey Brandt
  • A full house at Burger Night
The state Department of Health is asking Vermonters to check their freezers for ground beef that was raised at Bread & Butter Farm in Shelburne and processed at Vermont Livestock Slaughter & Processing in Ferrisburgh.

Meat with lot codes 072517BNB and 072417BNB and establishment number "EST. 9558" have been recalled by the processor for possible contamination with the toxin E. coli O157:H7, according to the Department of Health.

"If people have [the ground beef], they should throw it out or take it back to the place of purchase," Bradley Tompkins, the state's food-borne disease epidemiologist, said Friday afternoon. The ground beef "continues to be a risk and it's very possible that people have this in their freezer."

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Nine Vermont Hospitals to Participate in All-Payer Experiment Next Year

Posted By on Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 9:34 PM

OneCare Vermont CEO Todd Moore - FILE: ALICIA FREESE
  • File: Alicia Freese
  • OneCare Vermont CEO Todd Moore
Nine of Vermont’s 14 hospitals have agreed to participate, to varying degrees, in the state’s all-payer experiment, starting next January. But some major health care providers, including the Community Health Centers of Burlington, are opting out — for now.

OneCare Vermont, the accountable care organization that is spearheading the move toward an all-payer system, announced the participants Tuesday.

OneCare estimates that 120,000 Vermonters will receive health care next year through the all-payer model, in which health care providers are paid based on patient health outcomes, rather than the number of procedures performed.

“It’s a huge step — 120,000. I’m happy with it,” OneCare CEO Todd Moore said.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

UVM Medical Center Plans to Expand Air Ambulance Service

Posted By on Tue, Oct 3, 2017 at 4:54 PM

The helipad at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington - MOLLY WALSH
  • Molly Walsh
  • The helipad at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington
There could be more landings next year on the helicopter pad at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington.

Hospital executives are in contract negotiations to expand air ambulance service in 2018 through a collaboration with DHART, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Advanced Response Team. The deal could be completed within the month, according to Eileen Whalen, president and chief operating officer of UVM Medical Center.

The new service would focus on interhospital transport of critically ill patients in UVM's service area, which includes Massena, N.Y. — a three-hour drive from Burlington. That same journey takes about 35 minutes through the air, according to Whalen.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Vermont Grants Medical Marijuana License to PhytoScience Institute

Posted By on Mon, Sep 25, 2017 at 9:52 AM

Plants at Champlain Valley Dispensary, one of the state's current operations - FILE: LEE KROHN
  • File: Lee Krohn
  • Plants at Champlain Valley Dispensary, one of the state's current operations
Updated on September 26, 2017.

The Vermont Department of Public Safety on Friday approved a license for the state's fifth medical marijuana operation, which plans to open dispensaries in Bennington and St. Albans.

PhytoScience Institute, led by University of Vermont professor William Cats-Baril, beat out four other applicants vying for a state license. For the last two years, the Waterbury-based Institute has offered consulting services and conducted testing and research on marijuana products.

While Gov. Phil Scott vetoed the Vermont legislature’s attempt to legalize marijuana last session, he did sign a bill that allows for a fifth state medical marijuana dispensary license.* The legislation also permits each of the five licensees to operate a satellite location.

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Friday, July 21, 2017

Trump Admin Axes Millions in Funding for Vermont Nonprofit

Posted By on Fri, Jul 21, 2017 at 5:36 PM

Meagan Downey leads a training last June that was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant. - COURTESY OF YOUTH CATALYTICS
  • Courtesy of Youth Catalytics
  • Meagan Downey leads a training last June that was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant.
President Donald Trump’s administration has rescinded more than $2 million of grant funding intended for a Vermont nonprofit that is working to prevent teen pregnancy — decimating the group’s finances, according to one of its directors.

The Charlotte-based Youth Catalytics has provided training and research to youth services organizations around the country for 35 years. During Barack Obama’s presidency, the group won a five-year federal grant for pregnancy prevention work that began in 2016 with $564,000 in funding. Earlier this month, the Office of Adolescent Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services informed the organization that it had terminated the remaining four years of the grant — a loss of about $2.25 million.

“Due to changes in program priorities, it has been determined that it is in the best interest of the federal government to no longer continue funding for the Providing Capacity Building Assistance to OAH Teen Pregnancy Prevention Grantees program,” the July 5 letter read.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Walters: Former Health Commissioner Prepares for Year in Uganda

Posted By on Wed, Jul 12, 2017 at 5:41 PM

Dr. Harry Chen and Anne Lezak - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Dr. Harry Chen and Anne Lezak
Dr. Harry Chen and his wife Anne Lezak are preparing for the adventure of a lifetime: living in Uganda for a year, helping to develop health care institutions in the southwestern city of Mbarara.

Chen is a former state representative, state health commissioner, and acting human services secretary who left state government in March; Lezak is a consultant in nonprofit management and grant writing who most recently worked at Mercy Connections, a Burlington nonprofit.

"This is a transition point for me," Chen explains. "It was a time to take stock and decide what you want your next adventure to be. Anne and I have always talked about spending time overseas. It's a perfect time to do it."

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