Bill setting state oversight of Retreat clears Legislature

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MONTPELIER — A bill establishing state oversight of the Brattleboro Retreat has passed both houses of the Vermont Legislature.

The state House of Representatives on Friday concurred with the state Senate version of H. 960, a bill dealing with various health topics. The House passed its version of the bill on June 9, and the Senate approved its version on Thursday, adding amendments requiring reporting on quality of care and labor relations.

Last week, a House CARES Act funding bill, H.965, allocated $10.2 million to the Retreat. That bill was approved unanimously by the state Senate Friday.

As a condition of state funding for the private inpatient mental health and addictions facility, the bill places the Retreat under the oversight of the state Department of Mental Health, and all psychiatric hospitals under the oversight of the Green Mountain Care Board.

The bill sets target dates for the Department of Mental Health to report back to the Legislature on patient experiences and quality of care, and on communication and relations with employees. It also calls for regular review of patient experiences and quality of care.

"Everyone is aware of the amount of investment we've been making to this critical part of our healthcare system," said state Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, who presented the bill to the House on Friday morning.

It passed by a vote of 134-1.

In mid-April, the state Agency of Human Services and the Retreat agreed to a financial package that would provide the hospital $3.5 million in grant funding and a $3.8 million advance on Medicaid payments to help with a decline in revenue associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

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