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Thursday, March 15, 2018

Health Group Chair Says She Was 'Silenced' by Scott Administration

Posted By on Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 12:14 PM

Mary Kate Mohlman, state director of health care reform, and Al Gobeille, secretary of the Agency of Human Services - FILE: TERRI HALLENBECK
  • File: Terri Hallenbeck
  • Mary Kate Mohlman, state director of health care reform, and Al Gobeille, secretary of the Agency of Human Services
The cochair of a health care advisory panel resigned this week over frustrations with the governor her group was charged with advising.

In a scathing letter to Gov. Phil Scott, Mary Val Palumbo accused his administration of ignoring recommendations from the Governor's Health Care Workforce Work Group and attempting to squelch dissent.

"Our feedback does not align with the current [Agency of Human Services] stance and budget proposal, and we are being silenced," Palumbo wrote.

An associate professor at the University of Vermont's College of Nursing and Health Sciences, Palumbo has led the work group since then-governor Peter Shumlin established it in 2013. The panel, which includes roughly two dozen health care professionals and administration officials, is charged with recommending approaches to recruit and retain health care workers in Vermont.

Another member of the group, Stowe psychologist Rick Barnett, also recently resigned, expressing frustrations similar to Palumbo's.

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Safe Response Team to Knock on Doors After Burlington Overdoses

Posted By on Thu, Jan 25, 2018 at 1:28 PM

A kit with the overdose-reversing drug Narcan - COURTESY: DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
  • Courtesy: Department of Health
  • A kit with the overdose-reversing drug Narcan
Come February, three Burlington city officials plan to visit the home of every person in the city who overdoses on drugs.

Burlington opioid policy manager Jackie Corbally, Deputy Police Chief Shawn Burke and Fire Chief Steve Locke will make up Burlington's new safe response team, which will launch February 1 as a four-month pilot.

The team will visit within 24 hours of an overdose — ideally on the same day, Corbally said. At each home, the team will offer resources for treatment, contact information for Corbally and the overdose-reversing drug Narcan. Corbally said she expects the team will respond to two to five calls each week.

“We’re going to be relentless,” she said. “We are going to find folks and let them know we care.”

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Study: Health Department's Opiate Treatment System Is Succeeding

Posted By on Mon, Jan 22, 2018 at 3:42 PM

A kit with the overdose-reversing drug Narcan - COURTESY: DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
  • Courtesy: Department of Health
  • A kit with the overdose-reversing drug Narcan
The Vermont Department of Health’s four-year-old "hub and spoke" model for treating opiate addiction led to a 96 percent reduction in patients’ usage of the dangerous drugs, according to a report released Monday.

Authored by University of Vermont professor Richard Rawson, the study found that hub and spoke patients recorded an 89 percent decrease in emergency department visits after they received treatment and a 90 percent drop in police stops and arrests. By several measures, the report found that users receiving care in the treatment system were dramatically better off than users who were not receiving care.

Perhaps most encouragingly, none of the participants in treatment had overdosed in the three months leading up to the study interview, compared to 25 percent who had overdosed in the three months before entering treatment.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

State Medical Examiner Placed on Leave, Faces Hearing

Posted By on Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 5:37 PM

Dr. Steven Shapiro at his office in 2016 - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • Dr. Steven Shapiro at his office in 2016
Vermont Chief Medical Examiner Steven Shapiro has been placed on paid leave. State officials offered no explanation for the move other than a statement saying it was "unrelated to medical practice."

Through his lawyer, Brooks McArthur, Shapiro denied any wrongdoing. McArthur issued a statement Friday that said Shapiro had expressed his displeasure with staff members over a serious "internal procedural error." As a result, one or more staffers filed a complaint with the Vermont Human Services Agency alleging that Shapiro created "a hostile or intimidating work environment," according to McArthur.

The public should understand that "this investigation and the allegations against him do not have any nexus to criminal activity nor involve any conduct of a sexual nature," McArthur's statement reads. "Dr. Shapiro will respect the investigative process and he looks forward to getting back to work."

Deputy Medical Examiner Elizabeth Bundock is handling some of Shapiro's responsibilities in the meantime. Shapiro went out on leave Tuesday.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Says Its BTV Air Ambulance Proposal Doesn't Need Review

Posted By on Tue, Dec 19, 2017 at 6:03 PM

University of Vermont Medical Center - FILE: COURTESY PHOTO
  • File: courtesy photo
  • University of Vermont Medical Center
Dartmouth-Hitchcock wants to bypass state regulators as it seeks to expand air ambulance service at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock on December 14 sent a letter to the Green Mountain Care Board arguing that the proposal should not trigger a permit review. The letter specifically seeks a "non-jurisdictional" ruling from the board to affirm that it agrees with the hospital's interpretation of the law.

The board has not responded or discussed the request but will do so within 30 days, board spokesman Conor Kennedy said Tuesday.

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Twenty-Nine Vermonters Have Died Using End-of-Life Law, State Says

Posted By on Mon, Dec 18, 2017 at 12:56 PM

  • Dreamstime

Updated at 2:26 p.m.

Twenty-nine terminally ill Vermonters have ended their own lives with help from a doctor in the more than four years since the state legalized the practice, according to a new report from the state Department of Health.

The report covers all cases between May 31, 2013 and June 30, 2017, and includes information about the terminal diagnoses patients had in order to qualify for a life-ending prescription.

According to the department, there were 52 cases in which patients met the requirements for physician-assisted suicide during that period. In 43 of those cases, cancer was the terminal diagnosis. Another seven were related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, and two cases involved another diagnosis.

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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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