BERLIN, -- Vermont has been awarded $30 million in federal funds and insurance payments toward the replacement of its state hospital in Waterbury, made unusable by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene, officials said Tuesday.
Gov. Peter Shumlin and others made the announcement while marking the start of construction on the Green Mountain Psychiatric Care Center. The 25-bed facility will sit next to the Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin, and serve as part of a nearly $43 million project to replace the state hospital.
The care center is expected to cost $28.5 million, and open in March or April of 2014, Shumlin said. The rest of the project entails smaller facilities in other parts of the state, including 14 beds in Brattleboro, six in Rutland, eight in Morrisville, and a few beds at a temporary facility in Middlesex.
More than 50 state officials, representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, former workers at the now closed Vermont State Hospital and others gathered on a muddy patch of ground next to the Central Vermont Medical Center to celebrate the progress toward replacing the Waterbury hospital.
State officials had talked of closing the hospital for more than a decade. Its antiquated building -- first constructed in the 1890s -- was blamed for its loss of federal certification, and about $10 million a year in federal funds as a result.
The governor said the new facility should enable the state to restore its federal certification.
"When we get those reimbursements back, we will pay for our entire new system in federal dollars in roughly a year and a half," Shumlin said.
Irene hit in 2011, and has been credited with providing the impetus for getting the project under way.
"We all know that the state hospital that was flooded was an inadequate facility that was decrepit and did not dignify the extraordinary quality of care that we deliver to our most vulnerable mental health patients," Shumlin said.
Once the Waterbury hospital was closed after the Winooski River spilled over its banks during Irene, "we didn’t have the option of doing what government does so well: waiting, thinking, planning, deliberating, arguing and hoping for a better day," the governor added.
He thanked state and federal officials, though he drew a laugh in noting Vermont would not be getting everything he asked for from FEMA, quoting "the great philosopher Mick Jagger," the lead singer of the Rolling Stones: "You can’t always get what you want, but if you try some time, you just might find, you get what you need."
Shumlin said FEMA and the state’s insurance company are expected to roughly split $30 million of the $42.8 million needed for the new mental health facilities. The Legislature last year set aside $18 million toward construction of new mental health projects.