Letter Box

Saturday February 23, 2013

More on ‘what’s going on’ at the Brattleboro Retreat

Editor of the Reformer:

I am a registered nurse on the children’s inpatient unit at the Brattleboro Retreat and a union member. The recent op-ed from the medical staff of the Brattleboro Retreat claiming to "set the record straight" is imaginative at best ("Exceptional patient care at the Brattleboro Retreat," Feb. 8). The writers initially seek to de-legitimize the concerns of the workers by claiming the criticism comes from a "small number of our unionized colleagues." The concerns about staff and patient safety, and the dangerous working conditions on certain units, are recognized by the vast majority of our more than 400 union members. To minimize these concerns is an insult to the front line workers who have been injured and continue to be injured by dangerous patients.

The writers state that changes were made to accommodate the influx of psychiatrically acute patients from the state hospital. The Retreat administration attempted to play catch-up when they realized they had a tiger by the tail with the influx of highly acute and dangerous state patients. The op-ed would have us believe that adequate planning was in place, when in fact, changes in policy and staffing began after the arrival of state patients. These changes certainly did not occur in time to prevent multiple incidents of patient-on-staff assaults.

As for the claim that assaults have decreased in 2012, I would refer readers to an article in The Commons published Dec. 12 -- "Records show increase in Retreat assaults; Police reports, Workers’ Comp record confirm employees’ claims that violence is on the rise." As to the assertion that police calls have recently dropped in number, that may be true, but as The Commons article states that was not the case during 2012 when unionized staff were voicing our concerns.

The op-ed from the medical staff goes on to state that the recent "layoffs" are merely another tool to reign in expenses and assure financial stability for the retreat. While we all agree that management of finances is key to long term viability many of the staff are disheartened over the elimination of our therapeutic programs and the loss of our longtime colleagues. These "layoffs" were actually the complete elimination of our therapeutic services department. This was the programming which provided group therapy, drug and alcohol counseling, recreational therapy, art therapy and life skills training to name a few. Without this programming the retreat becomes nothing more than a warehouse and or a revolving door for the mentally ill.

I have great respect for the physicians of the Retreat and I can understand their desire to express support for both the institution and its’ administration. However, we should all operate from a stance of unadorned reality and confront the difficult issues, which continue to present themselves at the Retreat. Marginalizing the concerns of the workers will not accomplish this task, rather an honest and realistic dialogue between the administration, medical staff and the workers is the only successful strategy.

David Lloyd, RN,

Brattleboro Retreat, Children’s Inpatient Unit,

Feb. 12

The River Garden is for the public

Editor of the Reformer:

The Robert H. Gibson River Garden is a public trust. It was funded by public money. As part of the Downtown Improvement District, it is overseen by public officials -- the Selectboard and the state of Vermont through the Downtown Improvement District legislation. For its owner, Building a Better Brattleboro (BABB) to say that it can no longer afford to maintain the River Garden, and for most members of the Selectboard to go along with that assertion, is for both bodies to knowingly and wrongly turn their backs on an important public facility in Brattleboro’s downtown. Certainly, our downtown shops are important and deserve our patronage, but being in the downtown isn’t just about shopping; it’s about being part of our community, and for that public spaces are necessary.

The River Garden has been used by a multitude of organizations for many purposes. Examples include the Winter Farmer’s Market, the Brattleboro Music Center, the Literary Festival, public gatherings after the Brooks House fire, annual meetings held by local non-profit organizations, and is also a place where tourists may gather information, friends have lunch, and shoppers stop in for a bathroom break. (How many other public bathrooms are there in the downtown area?)

The Selectboard and BABB have a responsibility to the citizens of Brattleboro and the region to find ways of keeping the River Garden open as a public facility. I hope that other people who have used and benefited from the River Garden will make their feelings and opinions known to the Selectboard and to BABB, in as many ways as possible, by writing to the newspapers and to BABB, and by calling Selectboard members and candidates. In addition, Brattleboro residents should call Town Meeting members and suggest that they amend the BABB budget article to include the continued operation of the Robert H. Gibson River Garden.

Jane Southworth,

Brattleboro, Feb. 18

CHSVT has been around longer than noted in Reformer

Editor of the Reformer:

In two of the three recent articles pertaining to the Community High School of Vermont’s closing, reference was made to the Brattleboro CHSVT site’s "first graduating class in 2007." In fact, the Vermont legislature created the CHSVT as a Department of Education-approved Independent School in April of 1998, and Sept. 21, 1998, was the first day of classes at the Brattleboro CHSVT. Graduations were held on a yearly basis thereafter.

Through the statewide initiatives of Robert Lucenti, then Superintendent of Corrections Education, and under the local leadership of Anne Emerson, the Brattleboro CHSVT provided diverse and comprehensive services to a population whose needs had been previously unmet. As an adjunct teacher at the Brattleboro CHSVT from 2002 until 2007, I participated in graduation ceremonies for at least 50 students over a five-year period. I witnessed the immense and positive impact the school and its staff had on the students. The young adults who graduated would not be as successful as they are today without the help of this program. Anne Emerson in particular was a major contributing factor to their success. The school will be greatly missed as a community resource that educates youth marginalized in the public schools.

Sharon Gralnick,

Guilford, Feb. 19

America is not Afghanistan

Editor of the Reformer:

Cristian Blake’s thoughts do not go far enough ("Guns protect us from tyranny," Feb. 19).

If we are to take on a government that has spun out of control, we must seriously consider the might of our armed forces. Larger weapons would have to include rocket launchers, drones, aircraft, tanks, etc. Sending the Redcoats home will prove to have been much easier than will be ousting our current corporcracy.

I do not question gun proponents their convictions but I do think this argument is both naive and shortsighted. This is not Afghanistan. Have we so quickly forgotten Ruby Ridge or Waco?

David White,

Putney, Feb. 19


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