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August 17th, 2018

VOTE FOR VERMONT: Status of Mental Health in Vermont

Anne Donahue joined Ben Kinsley and Pat McDonald, co-hosts for Vote for Vermont to talk about the status of mental health in Vermont. Anne has been an advocate for people with mental illness for many years. Anne feels that Vermont is actually one of the better system in place throughout the national, although flawed in many ways. Anne has long fought for parity – having mental health be included in health care and not having it looked upon as a separate part of health care. Its not health care and mental health; its health care including mental health. In the fight against opioid use in Vermont physicians and health care professionals are looking at the whole person – both their physical and mental health. Anne believes the system is too fragmented and that mental health workers are not paid equally to other health care workers resulting in a shortage of qualified mental health workers.

Early on, mental health wasn’t covered by insurance; now it is better integrated. Sadly, many emergency rooms are not set up to deal with people with mental illness which could result in individuals reaching a crisis point. If someone has a cardiac issue they get help immediately, not so with patients with mental illness. We might not need as many beds as we are currently estimating if we could deliver services in advance of a crisis.

The legislature this past session took positive steps to a) boost the salary structure for designated agencies and b) providing one-time money for training, recruitment and retention. Anne serves on the House Committee on Health Care and finally after much work on her part, mental health was moved over to her committee from Human Services – a sign that there is recognition that mental health belongs under the umbrella of health care.

Anne is the editor of Counterpoint which is a publication put out by the Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, written for those dealing with mental health issues, and is available for free at sites throughout the State. It prints artistic contributors along with opinions and news.

Anne was a member of the Childhood Experiences Group and talked about the extreme trauma that children are dealing with these days because of their unstable home life due to opioid use. Schools are also seeing the results of their student’s trauma. She discussed the important of a child having a stable adult in their lives -whether it be a teacher, relative, or neighbor. Early intervention is critical to help children deal with the instability in their lives and to minimize the long-term effects of toxic stress. Children fortunately are resilient and with the right support and guidance can go on to lead productive lives.

While mental health is a top priority for Anne, she is also very committed to an education system that is affordable and effective. Anne is known in the State House for someone who reads every bill that comes up on the Floor of the House for consideration. Many legislators look to Anne to signal whether a bill needs more work or not.

There is a lot more detailed information shared in the video about Anne’s upcoming campaign and her view of the working relationship in the Legislature, or lack thereof, which is not included in the above summary. If you would like to see the entire show go to vote802.com. Any rebuttals or addition comments are welcome and can be expressed on the websites and Facebook pages of VFV and Campaign for Vermont or by emailing voteforvermont@gmail.com.

The above piece was authored by Pat McDonald, Vote for Vermont.

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