Vermont is one of only six states in the country that offer comprehensive parity for treatment coverage to all its residents. But because it is such a small state (the total population in 2001 was an estimated 613,090), treatment resources are not always available.
That will change, however, by the end of this year. Governor James Douglas recently announced plans to open an 80-bed treatment facility for adolescents and adults, the Barre Montpelier Times Argus reported on February 21.
“The demand for treatment, especially residential, is growing,” Douglas said.
Agency of Human Services Secretary Charles Smith said the state would not have to pay any new money for the treatment center because the state could reallocate the more than $2 million paid every year to out-of-state treatment facilities.
Lawmakers lauded the announcement. “I regard it as very positive. It's addressing a vital need for residential care in this state,” said Sen. James Leddy, chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.
Sen. Richard Sears (D-Bennington), who runs residential programs for troubled youths, also praised the announcement. “It's a step in the right direction,” Sears said. “I think we have to be careful to remember two issues as we do this: That the treatment is accessible to people, and any residential treatment we offer includes an aftercare plan once people leave.”
An editorial in the Burlington Free Press on February 22 also praised the proposal: “Gov. Jim Douglas has stepped up to the challenge facing a growing number of Vermonters with a proposal that offers solace and hope: treatment close to home. The governor should be applauded for acknowledging the seriousness of the heroin problem in the state, and for recognizing that the road to recovery is difficult enough without having to leave behind families and familiar surroundings.”
For more information on Vermont's parity bill or efforts to increase capacity, contact the Vermont Association for Mental Health at 800-639-4052.