Aggressive action

‘While the Retreat has yet to record a COVID-19-positive patient, contingency plans are in place’

BRATTLEBORO — As we focus collectively on the threat of the coronavirus and the disease it causes - COVID-19 - I want to assure your readers that the Brattleboro Retreat is taking numerous steps to safeguard the health of our patients, staff, and community.

At the same time, we remain focused on our core mission to provide quality mental health and addiction services. In this regard, the Retreat has never been more essential to the state's overall health-care system.

Each time we admit a patient who would otherwise be stuck in a hospital emergency department suffering from acute psychiatric distress, we free up valuable medical resources needed to combat COVID-19 in Vermont.

We're also taking aggressive action here on our campus to limit or prevent the coronavirus from spreading. In addition to daily monitoring, continuous communication with state officials, and adoption of the most up-to-date recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Vermont Department of Health, the Retreat's response has included:

• Suspension of visitation on all inpatient units

• An increase in cleaning and disinfection protocols in all areas

• Initiation of COVID-19 screening protocols for all potential inpatient admissions

• Closure of our on-site school programs

• Closure of outpatient programs that involve face-to-face group counseling

• Cancellation of this spring's popular continuing education conference series

• Bolstering our inventory of personal protective equipment (PPE) while continuing to attain additional inventory

• Closure of our campus café and employee fitness center

• Restriction of access to our cafeteria and limited staff movement between buildings.

To the extent possible, we have encouraged our outpatient clinical staff to remain in touch with clients via telephone and video chat technology. We have also adopted measures to ensure that patients receiving daily dosing of buprenorphine can have enough of the medication at home so as to eliminate the need to come to our Hub program each morning.

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While the Retreat has yet to record a COVID-19-positive patient, contingency plans are in place. We have assessed and prepared a clinical space that can serve effectively as an isolation unit suitable to meet the needs of patients with both psychiatric and non-life-threatening symptoms of the coronavirus.

The Retreat is also partnering with Brattleboro Memorial Hospital (BMH) to help us provide medical support for presumed-positive or mildly symptomatic coronavirus patients, should that become necessary. Retreat patients who require higher levels of medical care will be transferred to BMH.

Like hospitals across the nation, PPE is a precious commodity. The Retreat has taken steps to conserve these items in preparation for a time when it may be needed to offer life-saving protection for our staff.

And speaking of staff, I really cannot say enough about the great work that continues to take place at the Retreat under difficult circumstances. COVID-19 has impacted everyone in the community in so many ways. But in spite of the personal and professional upheaval caused by this pandemic, the Retreat's care providers have truly been an inspiration to us all as they manage to constantly put our patients first.

The Retreat will continue to take aggressive action to help our community and our state make it through this unprecedented moment in modern history.

I don't have a crystal ball to tell me when this pandemic will be over, and at what cost. But I am confident that Vermonters will one day look back on our collective response to the outbreak of COVID-19 with the sense of a job well done.

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