Vermont to Implement New Mental Health Services for Inmates
by Andy Jones
July 17, 2017
Following through on changes spurred by a lawsuit from Disability Rights Vermont, the Vermont Departments of Corrections and Mental Health have finalized a new agreement that aims to provide timely, comprehensive treatment for inmates with mental illness.
Under the agreement, inmates in need of inpatient care must be transferred to a setting where such treatment can be provided within 48 hours, according to an article from VTDigger, dated July 11.
The agencies are also working together to create, by July 2019, a new mental health treatment center for inmates.
Disability Rights Vermont filed a federal lawsuit in 2014 on behalf of a patient identified as “Patient A,” who was incarcerated the prior August for various parole violations. Despite being categorized as “seriously functionally impaired,” the patient, who has been diagnosed with autism and ADHD, was incarcerated for seven months.
Despite being identified as being in need of inpatient care in February 2014, treatment was not provided until three months later, when he was transferred to the state’s psychiatric hospital.
“It’s a bellwether of a bigger problem,” A.J. Ruben, an attorney with Disability Rights Vermont, told the Burlington Free Press at the time. “The prison mental health system does not have enough capacity to divert inmates who need help to an in-patient psychiatric bed."
The parties settled the lawsuit in August 2016, leading to the passage of S. 61 by the state legislature, which the agreement seeks to implement.
Disability Rights Washington and Disability Rights Vermont are the designated protection and advocacy agencies in Washington and Vermont, respectively, and members of the National Disability Rights Network.