BRATTLEBORO—Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin was presented with the Brattleboro Retreat’s 2013 Anna Marsh Award before more than 160 guests at a gala fund raising event held Nov. 9 at The Hermitage in West Dover.
Shumlin is the fifth recipient of the Anna Marsh Award, which has been given by the Brattleboro Retreat since 2009 to recognize individuals for their advocacy on behalf of people with mental illness and addiction.
Also on hand to acknowledge Shumlin was filmmaker Bess O’Brien, whose new documentary The Hungry Heart chronicles the struggles of several young Vermonters from St. Albans who have attempted to overcome prescription drug addiction.
Past recipients of the Anna Marsh Award include actor Ken Howard, the late state Sen. Robert Gannett, the Retreat’s first female board chair, Julie Peterson, and last year’s honoree, former Retreat board member, Larry Cassidy.
“I’m here tonight to accept the Anna Marsh Award because there has been no better partner to me and the state of Vermont during our time of crisis than the Brattleboro Retreat,” said Shumlin in reference to the displacement of Vermont State Hospital patients in the wake of tropical Storm Irene two years ago. “You have allowed us to transform a system of care that has evaded governors, Republican and Democrat, for 30 years.”
The Retreat has taken in up to 24 state hospital patients at a time since Irene’s flood waters devastated the old Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury. During that time the state, under Shumlin’s leadership, has collaborated with hospitals and treatment centers around Vermont to establish a new decentralized system of mental health care.
As part of that plan the Retreat partnered with the state to construct a new state-of-the-art unit for 14 patients with severe psychiatric disorders on its Brattleboro campus. The unit was officially opened in April of this year.
Event proceeds of more than $65,000 will go to support the Brattleboro Retreat’s Recovery Project, an initiative to strengthen the hospital’s inpatient and outpatient programs for clients struggling with addiction and to increase coordination of services with local addiction recovery networks.
“We often say at the Retreat that it takes courage to ask for help,” said Retreat President and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Robert E. Simpson during his remarks to introduce Shumlin. “It also takes courage to make real change. Governor Shumlin has shown true courage in making changes in order to improve care for those suffering from mental illness and addiction in Vermont.”