Counterpoint summer 2018 final

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SINCE 1985


New Psych Hospital Proposed

MONTPELIER – The legislature agreed this spring with the Agency of Human Service’s assertion that the state has an urgent need to build more psychiatric facilities, but it rejected a plan to build them primarily in prisons. Instead, it put its support behind a proposal by the University of Vermont Health Network to construct a new psychiatric wing at the Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin. It approved an expedited planning process, but the facility is still three to four years away, hospital officials said. Two bills addressing the plans were signed by Governor Phil Scott in May. That new hospital wing – of undefined size – could also end up replacing the adjacent 25bed Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital. Under the proposal, the VPCH facility would convert to a 16-bed permanent expansion of the exist-

ing temporary seven-bed secure residence in Middlesex. The legislature directed the University of Vermont Health Network to consult with the Agency of Human Services “in identifying the appropriate number and type of additional inpatient psychiatric beds needed in the state.” “Arriving at that number will require considerable discussion,” noted Robert Pierattini, MD, the chair of psychiatry at UVM, in testimony to the Green Mountain Care Board, which oversees hospital budgets and construction. As an interim measure, the legislature also approved $5.5 million in construction funds for renovations to create a temporary 12-bed additional unit at the Brattleboro Retreat. The new proposal emerged after the legislature refused to approve funds requested in the governor’s capital budget to build a 12-bed tem-

porary unit in the Northwest State Correctional Facility near St. Albans or to begin planning for a 20-bed forensic hospital within a 200-bed replacement prison on those grounds. The House Committee on Health Care wrote in a memorandum in February that it opposed “the significant policy shift involved in separating patients based exclusively on legal status rather than clinical presentation” that would occur if a forensic, prison-based hospital were created for patients entering through criminal court referrals. UVM Proposal At the same time, the UVM Health Network was appearing before the Green Mountain Care Board to address what to do with $21 million in unapproved revenue from increases in services last year. UVM proposed using that money to (Continued on page 7

Survivor Exposes Police Violence By ANNE DONAHUE Counterpoint

and another officer grabbed Crystal Cheney from her recliner in her apartment and threw her to BRATTLEBORO – “People who suffer from the floor to handcuff her last summer. mental health issues can fluctuate in their moods “Fearing … that she may become violent rapidly and they can become violent without again, Officer [David] Cerreto and I performed warning.” Those were the words of police officer an arm bar takedown on Cheney,” he wrote in William Penniman to justify his actions when he his report. He said they acted because “she kept stalling” after having agreed to go to the hospital to be checked out for a self-inflicted stab wound. “Cheney was sitting in her chair at this time,” Penniman wrote. According to AJ Ruben, supervising attorney with Disability Rights Vermont, the police violated Cheney’s rights by failing to get a warrant to take her from her home, since there was no emergency at the time. Three different police officers’ reports aligned with Cheney’s description of the events. However, a later incident – which she said led to her suffering permanent arm and shoulder damage – was not recorded. One of the officers shoved her to the floor from behind at PULLED FROM HER CHAIR ─ Crystal Cheney demostrates where police Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, grabbed her to drag her off her recliner in her apartment last summer. she said. Cheney said the incident (Counterpoint Photo: Anne Donahue) occurred when she was being


Advocate Brings Voice to Legislative Committee


The Arts

cooperative and just steps away from being in a seclusion room. Brattleboro Police Chief Michael Fitzgerald disagreed that a warrant was required under the circumstances and said that “officers should always err on the side of caution” in taking a person to the emergency room for an assessment when safety is at risk. As far as the unrecorded push at the hospital, Fitzgerald told Counterpoint that Cheney should be encouraged to make a formal complaint so that it can be fully investigated.

'I'm Sure I’m Not the Only One'

Cheney said she decided to speak publicly in the hope that recognition of police violence and its impact on people who have been labelled with mental illness will lead to change. “I want people to be able to be helped by this,” Cheney said. “I’m sure I’m not the only one. I hope people will come out and speak and change things.” “We’re not in a good space” when a crisis is unfolding, she said. “We already feel bad about ourselves” and don’t need to be treated with violence. Cheney said she “didn’t need a pack of wolves” jumping on her just because she was (Continued on page 5)



2 Peer Leadership and Advocacy


Meeting Dates and Membership Information for Boards, Committees and Conferences State Committees Peer Organizations VERMONT PSYCHIATRIC SURVIVORS BOARD

A membership organization providing peer support, outreach, advocacy and education. Must be able to attend meetings monthly. Experience with boards preferred, but not necessary. For information call 802-775-6834 or email


The advisory board for the Vermont Psychiatric Survivors newspaper. Assists with policy and editing. Contact

—Currently Recruiting New Members—

ALYSSUM Peer crisis respite. To serve on board, contact Gloria at 802-767-6000 or DISABILITY RIGHTS VERMONT PAIMI COUNCIL

Protection and advocacy for individuals with mental illness. Call 1-800-834-7890 x 101.


Advisory Steering Committee at the new hospital in Berlin, last Monday of month, 1:30 - 3:30 p.m.


Consumer Advisory Council, fourth Tuesdays, 12 - 1:30 p.m., contact Gwynn Yandow, Director of Patient Advocacy and Consumer Affairs at 802-258-6118 for meeting location.


Advises the Commissioner of Mental Health on the adult mental health system. The committee is the official body for review of and recommendations for redesignation of community mental health programs (designated agencies) and monitors other aspects of the system. Members are persons with lived mental health experience, family members, and professionals. Meets monthly on 2nd Monday at the Department of Mental Health, 280 State Drive NOB 2 North, Waterbury, noon-3 p.m. To apply for membership, contact Marla Simpson, M.A.( for further information.


Advisory groups required for every community mental health center. Contact your local agency for information about meetings and membership.


Advocacy in dealing with abuse, neglect or other rights violations by a hospital, care home or community mental health agency. 141 Main St, Suite 7, Montpelier VT 05602; 800-834-7890.


Representation for rights when facing commitment to a psychiatric hospital. 802-241-3222.



Community Advisory Committee, fourth Mondays, noon, conference room A.


Program Quality Committee, third Tuesdays, 9-10 a.m., McClure bldg, Rm 601A.

Peer services and advocacy for persons with disabilities. 800-639-1522.


Support for families with child or youth with mental health challenges. 800-800-4005; 802-876-5315.


Reporting of abuse, neglect or exploitation of vulnerable adults, 800-564-1612; also to report violations at hospitals/nursing homes.


The National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery is hosting the 2018 Alternatives Conference in Washington, D.C. from July 29 through August 3. A preconference advocacy training day on Monday will provide coaching and logistical support in educating congress, followed by the movement’s first day on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. The conference will open on Tuesday evening followed by workshops and other activities Wednesday through Friday. The Alternatives conference is the oldest and largest conference of its kind, organized and hosted for more than three decades by peers for peers to network with and learn from one another. This conference is funded entirely through registration fees and donations. For more information and registration, see


Rights when dealing with service organizations such as Vocational Rehabilitation. Box 1367, Burlington VT 05402; 800-747-5022.

The Service Building, 128 Merchants Row Suite 606, Rutland, VT 05701 Phone: (802) 775-6834 email: counterpoint@ MISSION STATEMENT:

Counterpoint is a voice for news, commentary and the arts by psychiatric survivors, ex-patients, and consumers of mental health services, and our families and friends. Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved FOUNDING EDITOR Robert Crosby Loomis (1943-1994) EDITORIAL BOARD Joanne Desany, Calvin Moen, Sara Neller, Eleanor Newton

The Editorial Board reviews editorial policy and all materials in each issue of Counterpoint. Review does not necessarily imply support or agreement with any positions or opinions.

PUBLISHER Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, Inc.

The publisher has supervisory authority over all aspects of Counterpoint editing and publishing.

NEWS EDITOR Anne B. Donahue

News articles without a byline were written by the news editor.

Opinions expressed by columnists and writers reflect the opinion of their authors and should not be taken as the position of Counterpoint. Counterpoint is funded by the freedom-loving people of Vermont through their Department of Mental Health. DMH does not interfere with editorial content and its financial support does not imply support, agreement or endorsement of any of the positions or opinions in this newspaper. Counterpoint is published by Vermont Psychiatric Survivors three times a year, distributed free of charge throughout Vermont, and also available by mail subscription. Vermont Psychiatric Survivors is an independent, statewide mutual support and civil rights advocacy organization run by and for psychiatric survivors. The mission of Vermont Psychiatric Survivors is to provide advocacy and mutual support that seeks to end psychiatric coercion, oppression and discrimination. Counterpoint does not use pseudonyms in its reporting without stating that a pseudonym is being used and without an explanation for why the person’s identity is not being disclosed. Counterpoint does not use anonymous sources under any circumstances.


Have News To Share?


Send it to Counterpoint! Your peer newspaper

To report problems with any health insurance or Medicaid/ Medicare issues in Vermont. 800-917-7787 or 802-241-1102.

Statewide support for families of children, youth or young adults in transition who are experiencing or at risk of experiencing emotional, behavioral or mental health challenges. 800-639-6071, 802-876-7021.

How to Reach the Department of Mental Health:

The Service Building, 128 Merchants Row Suite 606, Rutland, VT 05701 Email: counterpoint@



For DMH meetings go to web site and choose “more” at the bottom of the “Upcoming Events” column. ADDRESS: 280 State Drive NOB 2 North, Waterbury, VT 05671-2010

FALL (September delivery; submission deadline July 13) WINTER (December delivery; submission deadline October 9) SUMMER (June delivery; submission deadline April 9)

Don’t Miss Out on a Counterpoint! Mail delivery straight to your home — be the first to get it, never miss an issue. c Enclosed is $10 for 3 issues (1 year). c I can’t afford it right now, but please sign me up (VT only). c Please use this extra donation to help in your work. (Our thanks!) Checks or money orders should be made payable to “Vermont Psychiatric Survivors.” Send to: Counterpoint, The Service Building, 128 Merchants Row, Suite 606, Rutland, VT 05701

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ROUND UP In the Legislature

In the News

In Commentary

Opposition to Drug Tracer New Inpatient Wing Proposed Police Violence Exposed On Central Vermont Campus A woman who described beatings and injury The winter Counterpoint telephone poll asked, After the legislature trashed a proposal to add inpatient psychiatric beds inside a new mega-prison, a plan emerged to build a new mental health wing at Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin. The draft plan, which would take at least four years to complete, includes moving the current Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital capacity into the new wing and using that building to replace the seven-bed secure residence in Middlesex with a 16-bed program. In the interim, 12 Level 1 inpatient beds will be created in renovated space at the Brattleboro Retreat. See article beginning on page 1.

Budget Focuses on Staffing And Parity for Mental Health In support of a stated focus on parity, the legislature approved two bills that sought to improve access to outpatient mental health care. Budget The budget increases funding for community mental health agencies, identifying higher salaries as crucial to maintaining access to mental health supports. A total of $4.321 million was appropriated for designated agency staff, and another $5 million was put aside for training and incentives for mental health and substance use disorders job development. The budget removed funding for new outreach workers and expansion of the Vermont Support Line but left in a $200,ooo expansion of funds for supported housing. Parity A multi-part bill on mental health issues sets out requirements for further work in a report that is due next year and adds parity language throughout the state’s health care statutes. A state representative reporting on the House floor cited the need to change the “social construction” that denies respect for “the whole person, mind and body, heart and soul.” New Reports The bill also sets out requirements for a study on orders of nonhospitalization and for developing a vision for integration of mental health into health care. It directs the Agency of Human Services to create a plan to replace sheriff’s departments that are not complying with least restrictive (non-restraint) transportation requirements and requires improved collection of data from hospitals, including on restraints in emergency departments. See article on page 6.

Gun Laws, Police Shootings Raise Dangerousness Issue One of the new gun laws that passed the legislature in the wake of a threat to shoot students at a Vermont high school borrows language directly from mental health involuntary commitment law. An “extreme risk protection order” bill allows firearms to be removed from any person who is shown to the court to be a risk of harm to self or others. The 2016 law that requires persons under an order of hospitalization or nonhospitalization to be reported to the federal registry of persons prohibited to own a firearm has resulted in 589 names being turned in. Meanwhile, in the past six months, two Vermonters were shot and killed by police while reported to be suicidal. See both articles on page 6.

by the Brattleboro police as they forced her to go to the hospital has spoken out in the hope that her story will help prevent other similar incidents. She was dragged off her recliner after police said she was stalling from being transported. Crystal Cheney says she wants an apology for being shoved to the ground, permanently injuring her arm, when she was being cooperative after arriving at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. See article beginning on page 1.

Survivor Becomes Advocate Her experience with serious flaws in Vermont’s inpatient care for psychiatric conditions has led a survivor to become an advocate. Erica Cohn, who has experienced multiple hospitalizations, testified this past winter before the legislature to ask for increased oversight over hospitals. She said she found the experience of testifying rewarding and encouraged others to do the same. See article on page 10.

Services Improve in ER The number and length of emergency room waits for persons in a mental health crisis are not improving, but some services appear to have been improved for those left waiting. Lissy Wolf described her experiences during five days in the University of Vermont Medical Center ER. She later urged state legislators to work to recruit more mental health providers. See article on page 8.

“A psych med has been approved that has a sensor to track when you swallowed it and makes a record that you or someone else with permission can look up. Do you think this is a good idea?” There were 24 responses, and 20 voted no. The summer Counterpoint poll question asks, “During the most recent legislative session, VPS advocated that instead of adding more hospital beds, the State invest in prevention and early intervention by developing peer-run community centers that include two-bed, peer respites in every Vermont county. Which would you choose to improve Vermont’s mental health system?” See article on page 9.

Don’t Take Others’ Rights The summer editorial discusses a new gun law takes that takes away the right to possess a gun from any person who is deemed a danger to self or others, without requiring a diagnosis of mental illness. It concludes that rights should not be taken away based on predictions of future behavior when there is no criminal act. See editorial on page 18.

Reflections on Departure Editor and publisher Wilda White, on the eve of her departure after her three years as executive director of Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, reflects on the changes she sees in the agency and in the state’s mental health system. See commentary on page 18.

VOSHA Drops Some Charges

Solidarity with Prisoners

The state’s Department of Labor dropped two of three charges against the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital that alleged the state was not doing enough to protect workers from patient assaults. The citations that were dropped were for failure to provide staff with personal protective equipment such as face and body guards. The new executive director of the hospital says a staff safety committee is identifying improvements to be made in compliance with the settlement with the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration. See article on page 4.

The opposition to a proposed 925-bed prison and mental hospital exposes a lack of solidarity between people within the prison reform and prison abolition movements and those fighting the expansion of psychiatric imprisonment and involuntary treatment, according to Kate DeWolfe. See commentary on page 23.

Board, Staff Give Farewell Board of directors members and staff provided farewell comments to Wilda White during a luncheon that observed her departure after three years as executive director. See article and photo on page 4.

New VPS Staff Named Vermont Psychiatric Survivors has announced two new staff members, Christina Temple and Amanda Elizabeth Leite, as peer advocates based in Rutland County. See article on page 17.

Vermont ECT Use Stable The use of electroconvulsive therapy in Vermont has been relatively stable over the past 14 years, with a little over 100 people annually receiving ECT, according to the annual report of data released by the Department of Mental Health in April. See article on page 17.

Peer Grants Available Applications for peer-operated project grants are available from VPS. See article on page 10.

Causes and Impact of Stigma Sarah Robinson said she struggles with internalized, culturally conditioned self-blame and shame but has found that it helps to think of who she is: not someone who is mentally ill, but someone who has a mental illness. See commentary on page 21.

A Path to Acceptance Mad pride is based upon the understanding that madness has intelligence and purpose to it, says Matti Salminen. He describes his efforts at inventing a martial art as his path to acceptance. See commentary on page 22.

Who Are You Afraid Of? Kat Stephanis says that those who look at mass murderers and think the problem is mental health are telling her that she is one of the people to be afraid of. See commentary on page 22.

Confronting Social Ills The trouble with the gun debate is when it starts getting tied to mental illness, says John LePage. He argues that society needs the courage and fortitude to confront our culture’s myriad social problems. See commentary on page 23.



Board Thanks Departing VPS Director

The following is a statement from the board of directors of Vermont Psychiatric Survivors: RUTLAND – It is with regret that the Board

of Directors of Vermont Psychiatric Survivors announces the resignation of Wilda White, our executive director of the last three years. Wilda came to VPS in 2015 after a lengthy career in the legal profession, with experience in racial and LGBT civil rights litigation. She came to VPS after a personal experience of mental health challenges and psychiatric injustice. In her work at VPS, she applied her personal experience and her legal expertise to addressing, through testimony at the legislature, speaking to groups and organizations, and writing, the issues of coercion, oppression and discrimination. She did research reports about the use of the mental health system and the overcrowding of emergency rooms by people in crisis, which she presented to legislative committees. During her time at VPS, Wilda increased our visibility and our credibility in the wider community, and her advocacy and activism helped to increase the size and involvement of the psychiatric survivor community. VPS has seen more opportunities for particiFAREWELL WORDS — Wilda White opens her messages pation in state committees and work groups. in a bottle gift from staff at a lunch to honor her on her We have a seat on the Mental Health Crisis departure as executive director of Vermont Psychiatric Response Commission, and Wilda was appointSurvivors. ed chair of that commission, which investigates (Counterpoint Photo: Anne Donahue)

death occurring in the presence of law enforcement. In collaboration with the Recovery Network and the Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health, Wilda presented two state-wide conferences that gave attendees information and experience about working with their legislators to influence passage of legislation that addresses our issues as psychiatric survivors. Wilda and the VPS staff supported the first Mad Pride Day in 2016 in Montpelier, to celebrate our movement. The third Mad Pride Day will be on Saturday, June 14 of this year. Wilda says that through her work at VPS, she has discovered her life’s passion, working on civil rights for people with mental health challenges, who often, because of these challenges, cannot find legal representation when trying to fight coercion and oppression. Wilda will be staying in Vermont to carry on this work. The Board of Directors wishes to thank Wilda for her hard work and dedicated service to VPS – our staff, members, board and the psychiatric survivor community of Vermont. We wish her well as she continues her work of fighting injustice, and we hope to collaborate with her in the future.

VOSHA Backs Off on Hospital Charges

BERLIN – Workplace safety regulators have withdrawn charges that the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital failed to protect staff because it did not require them to wear “arm guards, shin guards, chest guards, mouth guards” when dealing with patients “engaging in assaultive behavior.” Last year’s nationally unprecedented action in a hospital worker safety case by the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration drew strong criticism from psychiatric survivors, other hospitals, and national consultants on hospital standards and had been appealed by the Department of Mental Health. In a settlement agreement, along with withdrawing the citation for failure to require protective gear, VOSHA suspended an underlying citation for failure to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards. The agreement states that it will be deleted if the hospital completes a series of prevention measures aimed at “increased safety for employees from the hazard of violent acts perpetrated against them by patients.” Fines of $14,000 originally imposed are allowed under the settlement to be used in support of the new safety measures. The fines and citations can be renewed if the conditions of the settlement and deadlines for the requirements are not met over the course of the next year. Meeting those conditions has been an active focus for the hospital’s new chief executive officer, Emily Hawes, who was named in February to take over the position after it had been vacant for almost a year. In response to the settlement, VPCH has established a safety council that includes direct care staff, is developing additional training on de-escalation skills and is using a new tool that helps to assess whether a patient is at risk of imminent violence (the Broset Violence Checklist), Hawes said. The hospital has also restored monthly all-staff meetings and expanded case conferencing, and is revising the debriefing used after emergency involuntary procedures, she said. Steve Howard, executive director of the Vermont State Employees Association, testified in the legislature that “the management of the hospital has put in place some of the pieces” to improve safety. “It’s a challenging issue that I think doesn’t always have a clear answer,” he said. He attributed part of the problem to inadequate staffing, saying that “week after week of mandatory overtime after mandatory overtime” often leaves workers “not in great shape to de-escalate” agitated patients. Hawes said the hospital has been continuing efforts at filling vacancies, though it may not be possible to eliminate all overtime. The hospital is facing a new hiring challenge, she said, with the news that the University of Vermont Health Network might build an adjacent hospital that would take over the role of VPCH. (See news article, page 1.) Two people scheduled for interviews withdrew recently, citing that future possibility, she said. “There’s definitely anxiety” among staff about the future, and it has

“brought up some old feelings” from when the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury was under years of threats of imminent closure, Hawes said. Hawes brings experience from a cross-section of mental health to her new position. She worked in community mental health in Kansas and then at the Clara Martin Center in Randolph before joining the DMH care management division. She assisted in the interim leadership at VPCH last fall and then decided to apply for the position, Hawes said. Hawes said her priority is “enhancing patient safety and the patient experience” by being customer-oriented and having staff “feel appreciated, supported and trained.”

Executive Director Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, Inc. (VPS) seeks a dynamic, visionary Executive Director with proven experience in advocacy, financial management, and inspiring staff. The Executive Director is responsible for managing day-to-day operations to fulfill VPS’s mission. The organization has an annual budget of approximately $550,000, and 10 employees. The Executive Director reports to the Board of Directors. Candidates should have personal, lived experience of mental health issues/ diagnosis and an understanding of the resulting losses and marginalization. Political advocacy, administrative, management, financial and budgeting experience and understanding of peer values and peer organizations are crucial. An ability to integrate conflicting perspectives, foster collaboration and inspire participation across diverse viewpoints and stakeholder interest is also essential. This is a full-time, exempt position with a salary between $50,000 and $60,000, plus benefits. Some travel required. To apply, send a cover letter, resume and references to until position is filled. For a complete job description, go to




POLICE VIOLENCE • Continued from page 1 exercising her right to refuse medical treatment. By the time she was transferred to the Brattleboro Retreat she was covered in bruises “from neck to toe” and had a broken wrist, which later required surgery and pins, a broken elbow, and a shoulder injury. Cheney said all she really wanted was an apology for being pushed from behind as she walked voluntarily into the emergency room. She said she has asked but has never received one. “I can take an ass-whooping,” she said, referring to the events at her home. “But don’t push me from behind.” She attempted to make a formal complaint about the shove, but Disability Rights Vermont concluded that there was not enough evidence to bring any action over it, she said. Fitzgerald said that if Cheney came to the department, a supervisor would assist her with the formal process and potential witnesses at the hospital would be interviewed to assess whether there was evidence of excessive use of force. Without an investigation, he said he could not comment on Cheney’s allegation.

Attempting to Cope

The series of events began July 3, when Cheney said her PTSD was triggered by ongoing “psychological torture” by her upstairs neighbor, who provoked her with loud stomping noises and left a whining dog for long periods of time. At points during a long history of complaints recorded by police, the neighbors acknowledged they were sometimes acting deliberately. On that day, Cheney was also coping with reactions to medication changes related to longstanding back pain from slipped discs. Her potassium crashed and she had become severely dehydrated, she said. She did not want to go to the hospital because she has been “treated like crap there” in the past. Cheney said she has been a cutter since she was 15, and when she “lost it,” she felt a need to see blood. She stripped and went into her bathroom. “I stabbed myself twice,” she said. It happened while a homemaker was present – evidence that it was not a suicidal gesture, Cheney said – but she took Cheney’s knife away and called the police. When the police arrived at the door, Cheney went back into the bathroom to hide, but “after some coaxing [by the police] I came out.” She then agreed to go to the hospital if she first had the opportunity to calm herself by smoking some marijuana. She has a marijuana registry card that permits such use. The police agreed but then broke that agreement by not waiting long enough, she said. “They lied to me,” she said. They grabbed her feet to pull her off the chair, and her head and back were hit in the process. “They slammed me on the floor.” When she tried to grab the leg of her couch, she was handcuffed and all six of the officers who were present picked her up and carried her “up in the air” to take her outside. They put her down on the sidewalk while an ambulance crew prepared the stretcher for transport. “Now I’m pissed off,” Cheney said in describing her response. She did not want to go to the hospital and curled up and held her legs. It was then that the police “jumped on top of me like a bunch of wild dogs.”

Pushed From Behind

After getting to the hospital and waiting – with her request to have her own doctor called being

ignored – Cheney told the two guards that she needed to go outside. Although she was sitting just outside the hospital, the police were called back and made her get into a wheelchair to be moved back inside. The police report stated that they were called because Cheney was “sitting on a bench and refused to go back into the hospital.” While being wheeled in, Cheney said she reached for one of the officer’s guns and he grabbed her arm and twisted it behind her back – “which I deserved,” she said. "Then somebody [one of the two officers] pushes me from behind, when I’m complying,” she said. “My elbow slammed on the floor." Despite an apparent broken arm, Cheney said she was put in four-point restraints when hospital staff claimed she was trying to throw herself off the gurney as a suicide attempt.

'Then somebody [one of the two officers] pushes me from behind, when I’m complying,” she said. 'My elbow slammed on the floor.' She was screaming for them to “please do something” about her arm, but it was not addressed until the next day and it took two days before she got an X-ray, showing a fracture of the elbow and a broken wrist. The breaks were assessed as correlating to the fall, she said. “I’ll never be able to use my left arm again,” she said. She has pins in her wrist from surgery and is still receiving treatment for her injured shoulder. Four days later, she was transferred to the Retreat, where pictures were taken of her bruises, but the hospital later said the pictures had been lost – something Cheney finds hard to believe. She received good care there, she said, but “what I’m mad at, [is] they’re hiding the pictures.” Merry Postemski of Disability Rights Vermont saw her five days later at the Retreat and said she saw the multiple bruises all over Cheney’s body. Postemski said Cheney had a swollen bump protruding from her back and was complaining of arm pain. Postemski said she looked into the missing pictures and that it appeared they had been taken but then never downloaded from the camera and preserved. She confirmed that DRVT investigated Cheney’s complaint about the shove at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital but found that there was not adequate evidence to make a case.

Removed Without a Warrant

According to Ruben, the police actions in removing Cheney from her home were clearly not permitted under the law. “You’re not allowed to do that without a warrant,” he said, unless there is an emergency, “and it’s clear from the facts” that it was not an exigent circumstance. The police’s own version of the events that day mirror Cheney’s description. They said they drew their guns “fearing she would charge” when she met them at her apartment door in a “defensive posture” with something metal in her hand.

After she was talked out of hiding in her bathroom, she came into the living room and agreed to get dressed. “The deal that was made was that she was going to smoke some of her medical marijuana and then go to the hospital to be medically checked out,” one officer’s report read. “Cheney allowed one person from Rescue Inc. to come into the apartment and check her stab wound. … The Rescue personnel advised us that Cheney needed to go to the hospital to get the wound cleaned and stitched up.” “Cheney was sitting in her recliner,” another report said, when officers told her she was going to be placed in protective custody to be taken to the hospital. An officer informed her that “because she intentionally stabbed herself in the neck, she had to go to the Brattleboro Memorial Hospital emergency room for a mental health evaluation.” When she became upset in response, one officer advised her that “she didn’t have a choice and was going to the hospital whether she wanted to or not. "Cheney continued to refuse so [two officers] grabbed Cheney’s arms and tried to get her off the chair but she refused by trying to pull her arms free and kicking her feet.” They then “took Cheney to the ground using [the] arm bar tackle,” another report stated. Only one of the reports described details of what happened after she was taken outside. “We placed Cheney on the sidewalk and waited for Rescue to bring up the stretcher. … Cheney fought against us the whole time, attempting to kick and pull her arms free.” The police actions in response to that were not described. Fitzgerald said that “if someone is clearly a danger to herself or others we don’t need a warrant to get them screened” and the description of events when police responded “clearly [met] that criteria.” He said he tells his officers, “You’re not a mental health crisis worker.” “You don’t want a police officer making a diagnosis” and being the one to determine that a crisis has ended, Fitzgerald said.

'It’s Never Too Late'

Cheney is upset that no one at the hospital filed a complaint about her injuries despite being mandated reporters of the abuse of vulnerable adults, which includes those being treated in psychiatric settings. Despite hearing a guard say, “I get paid to take care of sickos and psychos,” Cheney does not want to pursue a complaint against Brattleboro Memorial Hospital for the way she was treated there. That guard is no longer stationed there, and “the attitude has changed” since then, she said. Of the last two times she was back in the emergency room, she said, “They were good to me.” “What I’m really mad about,” she said, is the gratuitous shove from behind, and the lack of an apology for it. “It’s never too late for an apology.” A single report described the later interaction at the hospital, after the police were called back because she had gone outside to sit and refused to go back in. According to this report, officers brought a wheelchair out. When she refused to get up, officers took hold of her arms and “lifted her up and sat her in the wheelchair.” “We then walked Cheney into the hospital and she was placed in room 10.” The report ended there, with no details provided about events inside the building.



Budget Focuses on Staff and Parity MONTPELIER – In support of a stated focus on parity, the legislature approved bills in May that sought to improve access to outpatient mental health care along with initiatives to develop added inpatient mental health capacity. Budget inceases were almost exclusively directed to community mental health agencies. In total, mental health services received $243.25 million in the operating budget for the 2019 fiscal year, an increase of 2.8 percent over last year. AlRep. Bill Lippert though the budget was vetoed by the governor, when a budget compromise is reached, the mental health parts are not expected to change. A separate bill set out follow-up items for the existing review of the state’s mental health services that is due in January and was signed by the governor. A phrase requiring “equal access to appropriate mental health care in a manner equivalent to other aspects of health care as part of an integrated, holistic system of care” appeared in the act 17 times, inserting the language into every section of the state’s health care laws, from hospital budgets to insurance rate review. “Mental illness is a social construction,” Rep. Brian Cina (P-Burlington) said, presenting the bill to the

full House on April 24. “The more that we learn about ourselves as human beings through science, the more that we recognize that the mind and the body are interconnected, one and the same. “Our nervous system extends from our brain to every corner, every system, every cell of our being,” he said. “We feel within our bodies, we think through our bodies, and we remember throughout our bodies. … We must respect the whole person, mind and body, heart and soul.” He told the other legislators that “misunderstanding about mental illness and the associated stigma led to separate and unequal systems of care.” Rep. Bill Lippert (D-Hinesburg), who chairs the House Committee on Health Care, told Counterpoint that though there has been progress in the right direction, “unfortunately, challenges remain.” “One of the most glaring examples that’s very real right now is the fact that Vermonters who are having mental health issues are waiting for days ... and sometimes even weeks in hospital emergency rooms,” he said. “We [the committee] really don’t believe that, if the issues were cardiac issues, they would be waiting in the emergency room for days to get the care they deserve.” The final budget appropriated about $4.3 million to increase compensation for employees of the state’s 11 mental health agencies. In a memorandum from the health care committee to urge budget increases, Lippert said that “the health care system should not be divided into two classes of providers, and recipients of mental health care should not be treated as second-class citizens in their ability to access providers.” The memo said that alleviating the pay deficit

at the agencies would “increase access to mental health care by reducing levels of vacancies and turnover” (italics in original). Lippert said later that the increase for the agencies was only a partial measure in working toward parity. “Even with this appropriation the salaries won’t be completely competitive” at the agencies, he said. A request for $400,000 by the Department of Mental Health for new community outreach services was included in the House budget but removed by the Senate. The Senate also removed money that would have allowed expansion of the Vermont Support Line to 24/7 operations. An increase of $200,000 in supported housing for persons being discharged from hospitals was retained in the final budget. A separate special fund was established to invest $5 million over the next four years for programs to recruit new mental health and substance use disorder staff at all professional levels. Among the follow-up items the bill requires of the Department of Mental Health are: • A study to examine “the strengths and weaknesses of Vermont’s orders of nonhospitalizations.” • The department’s plan for replacing contracts with sheriff’s departments that do not comply with state law on use of least restrictive means for transporting patients. • Expanded data collection from hospitals about both voluntary and involuntary patients, including on the use of restraint or seclusion in emergency rooms. • Added review of how the system “addresses, or should be revised better to address” the goal in state law of “a system without coercion.” • A common, long-term vision of integration of mental health services within health care.

Fear of Gun Violence Spurs Law on Dangerous Persons

MONTPELIER – A new law uses existing language from the mental health involuntary commitment statute to describe when firearms can be taken away from a person who is found to present an “extreme risk” to themselves or the public, but it applies to any individual with or without a psychiatric diagnosis. The use of nearly the same language to define danger to self or others was deliberate, according to Sen. Joe Benning (R-Lyndon), because “there is a long line of cases that have fleshed out the language on involuntary commitment. We wanted to make sure that this law was anchored in that long line of cases.” The new law received momentum in the legislature after a high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and the arrest of an 18-year-old Poultney man on charges of planning a mass shooting at Fair Haven Union High School. Benning, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said that the core of the bill was not to address such a high-risk situation “specifically as a mental health issue.” “I see [it] more as a society deciding that a weapon in the hands of someone bent on committing harm is something that needs to be interdicted,” although he said the decision made by the person wielding the gun “is going to always be a mental health issue.” Wilda White, executive director of Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, said that VPS took no position on the new law but that “if our society wants to take guns away from people … it certainly should not be their medical status that deprives them of their right to have a gun.” Some legislators did connect the threat of violence directly to assumptions about mental illness. “This is not a gun control law; it is a lunatic control law,” Sen. Randy Brock (R-Franklin) said to explain his support. “That’s very different. … It is focused on the problem, not the means.” Brock later said that he apologized if the reference to “lunatic” was perceived as offensive. “I certainly did not intend by my word choice to appear to stigmatize a class of innocent people,” he said. “I deliberately used the word ‘lunatic’ because it had the impact and the clear understanding that words such as ‘dangerous person’ do not. I was referring to a person who

commits a senseless, depraved and horrific crime – such as the Florida high school shooting – whether they were legally insane or not.” In 2016, the legislature passed a law that requires names of those who are committed to psychiatric care by a court to the federal database of persons prohibited from owning guns. Since then, 589 individuals have had their names reported to the database.

Police Shootings Kill Two Two persons described as being suicidal – including one who was holding a gun to his own head – were shot and killed by police within the first two months of 2018. According to news reports, Benjamin Gregware, 42, of Sheldon, was stopped by state police on Interstate 89 in Bolton in February after his ex-wife had called with concerns about him. They had reached him by cell phone, and he told them that when he ran out of gas he was going to “end it,” police said. After being pulled over, “Gregware is then seen opening his door and stepping out of his vehicle holding a handgun which he immediately points at his own head,” according to the statement from police. Gregware started walking toward the officers with the gun still pointed at his head, refusing orders to put the gun down, and both officers then opened fire, the police report said. In January, Nathan Giffin, 32, of Essex, was killed by police in Montpelier after a standoff that lasted about 50 minutes, according to news reports. Police said Griffin had robbed the Vermont State Employees Credit Union at gunpoint, and they confronted him in a field nearby and tried to negotiate with him. They said he was making threatening statements toward law enforcement as well as suicidal statements and was moving toward them and refusing orders to surrender the gun when eight officers fired at him. The gun was later determined to be a pistol-style BB gun. In both cases, the officers involved were cleared of wrongdoing by the state attorney general’s office.

SUMMER 2018 HOSPITAL • Continued from page 1



begin work on a psychiatric hospital expansion as part of CVMC. CVMC rently in use and moving patient care among those wings so that no curforms part of UVM Health Network, an affiliation of six hospitals in rent beds close during construction. Conditions include a strategic plan Vermont and New York. for future use of its facilities, and “their strategic plan has to be in concert The network first suggested the expansion last year as a way to help with the UVM plan,” Gobeille said. address the crisis in emergency departments for patients waiting for days The Retreat faces the loss of funding in to access a bed, Pierattini told the board. just a few years as the federal government The CVMC campus is undergoing a master plan for replacement build- begins phasing out a current waiver of a ings in several stages, and this would become the first phase. Pierattini law that prohibits adult Medicaid services said benefits would include the fact that it would be contiguous to the in a facility that is larger than 16 beds and medical center and its emergency department, adding that “another ma- not part of a general hospital, Gobeille jor driver is the need for medical care.” noted. That restriction will lead to the loss “The co-location is important,” he said. of federal money at VPCH as well if it conKevin Mullin, chair of the board, said, “The real question is whether tinues to operate with 25 beds, he said. or not at the end of the day [the psychiatric wing] is a better return for Prison health facilities already receive Vermonters” than cutting insurance rates to make up for the extra reve- no federal funding support. As a result, nue. The board approved the plan, setting the stage for the legislature to Gobeille estimated that the St. Albans consider it. prison temporary hospital proposal would Locating in a hospital “is the right clinical answer,” the secretary of the have cost the state $29 million over the Agency of Human Services, Al Gobeille, said in presenting it to legislative next four years in operating and renovacommittees as an alternative to the original forensic fation costs, in comparcility plan. ison to operating and “As soon as House Health Care came out with their renovation costs at the Steve Howard Rep. Bill Lippert memo that they did not want [a forensic unit] this has Retreat of $17 million over the same four-year period. rapidly become plan A,” he testified to the House Com- cautioned listeners In addition to the strategic plan, the Retreat must give mittee on Corrections and Institutions. authority for the Agency of Human Services to access that patients are its financial records and ensure “a process for sharing Gobeille also described the UVM plan as the right choice because of the central geographic location of information necessary to the Department of Mental “not a group of CVMC and his confidence in the network’s ability to Health for its statutory oversight responsibilities.” manage a large hospital. “From my position I see this as a global agreement people who are Neither the UVM unit nor the temporary Retreat unit with the Retreat,” Gobeille told the corrections and in‘the other’ – any stitutions committee, because the state will also begin would separate care based on whether a person was facing criminal court charges. paying an enhanced rate for care of Medicaid patients one of us could “It doesn’t matter which door they come in, they there that will add up to an additional $2 million per would be in these beds,” said Alice Emmons, chair of year. “We currently do not pay an adequate rate,” and end up in the the committee. Both units would include the category of the Retreat operates at a loss, which is ignoring “the impsychiatric unit.” portance of this institution to the health of the state,” he care called Level 1, for patients who are judged to need added staffing and services to meet more intense psychisaid. Louis Josephson, Ph.D., the chief executive officer atric symptoms. Emmons expressed concerns, however, of the Retreat, said it didn’t have other revenue sources that there was not enough time left in the legislative session to be sure the the way most hospitals do, so “the rate piece is critical. … I won’t be able agreement with the Retreat would be able to move forward. to fill the nurses” without it. “What if all this should fall through in June or July?” she asked about Secure Residence Delayed the temporary unit, which is targeted to open in fall 2019. Her committee Until the change in inpatient plans, the legislature’s capital bill had diadded language to the bill to permit committees to meet outside of session rected the agency to move ahead with plans to replace the seven-bed Midto review other options if that happens. dlesex secure residence with a 16-bed facility. The locked Middlesex proState Employee Concerns gram serves persons deemed by a court to no longer be in need of hospital Steve Howard, executive director of the Vermont State Employees care but to continue to need a locked program. The state has attributed Association, testified in several committees to urge that the state main- part of the shortage of beds at hospitals to the lack of adequate space for tain at least “16 Level 1 beds that patients who need to be discharged to a locked program. are completely under state conThe Middlesex secure residence was built in a set of mobile homes for trol” along with the 16-bed se- expediency after Tropical Storm Irene flooded the Waterbury state hospicure residence. He told the House tal; it was supposed to be in use for only two years. The new plan would Committee on Health Care it was mean the Middlesex facility would not be replaced until after the new hoscrucial as a “safety net for the sick- pital wing at CVMC is built, since the replacement would come through est patients that are out there,” reuse of the then-vacated VPCH. saying that “involuntary patients Legislators expressed some concern about the delay but approved it. are very different from voluntary “We’ve been hearing about the poor condition that the facility’s in,” patients.” Rep. Butch Shaw (R-Pittsford) said. “I don’t know if it can last another “They [state employees] have five years.” learned how to do it. … They can Community Gaps provide better care,” he said. The discussions about increased institutional capacity came with a Rep. Bill Lippert (D-Hines- warning from the Department of Mental Health. burg) cautioned listeners that pa“If we just add beds [without addressing community supports] we will tients are “not a group of people be back here having the exact same conversation” and looking for more who are ‘the other’ – any one of facilities in just a few years, Deputy Commissioner Mourning Fox told the us could end up in the psychiatric Senate Committee on Institutions. unit.” Sen. Peg Flory (R-Rutland) seemed surprised and asked whether those The final legislation in support weren’t the services the community mental health centers were getting Rep. Alice Emmons of the UVM plan includes a direc- extra money to provide. “Respectfully, no,” Fox replied, telling her that tion that planning by the Agency of Human Services includes “consider- community services have been level-funded – which amounts to a cut ation of maintaining the current State-owned Vermont Psychiatric Care when costs are rising – for years. Hospital as an acute inpatient facility.” Mental Health in Prisons It also permits UVM to do initial development work without a regOne other mental health appropriation was included in the state’s capulatory approval process as long as it “includes broad stakeholder in- ital bill, adding $600,000 for renovations to improve space for three feput, including from patients and providers” and “works with the Green male prisoners held at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility and Mountain Care Board for ongoing oversight of expenditures.” for 10 male prisoners at the Northwest prison for “therapeutic placement” Brattleboro Retreat Plan when they need mental health support but not hospital care. The interim unit at the Retreat was provided with a full waiver from regulatory approval based on time urgency, also with conditions. The Legislative reporting on pages 1, 6 and 7 by C.B. Hall project involves renovations of three wings, including one that is not cur-



More Wait in ERs; Some Care Improves By ANNE DONAHUE Counterpoint

BURLINGTON – Although there has been little progress overall in reducing long emergency room delays for people in a mental health crisis, improvements in the care for those waiting are making a difference for some.

That was the case for Lissy Wolf of Shelburne in January, who waited five days in the University of Vermont Medical Center emergency department yet said she felt it was a therapeutic experience thanks to the support of a nurse with psychiatric training. She was acutely aware, however, of the disparities in how people who need mental health support are treated. Wolf said what she saw has led her to want to become more involved in advocacy for peers who are unable to access the care they are seeking. Hospital data shows a continuation of the increases in emergency department waits over the past three years. “I care very deeply about this,” she said about the challenges of access to help. “We need to do a better job.” Wolf said she felt the key difference in her own emergency room stay resulted from being assigned to a psychiatric nurse. The nurse allowed her to have her own clothing back, rather than the standard paper gown, she said. “I actually decorated my room and brought my own quilt, and he was supportive of it,” Wolf said. The so-called sitters assigned to monitor patients were also supportive, she said. “They were really kind” and even taped a blanket over the window in the door to keep the light out that was bothering her, Wolf said. She said she felt safe after getting to her room there, despite having come to the hospital because she felt “extra anxious, extra depressed and suicidal.” At the same time, Wolf was aware of the negative impacts that others were experiencing. Across the hall in the emergency department was a man who became a friend after they were

both admitted to the same inpatient unit. He was “desperately depressed” and “felt he was an afterthought,” Wolf said. “His experience and my experience were very different.” Wolf said she believes the number-one issue is the need to recruit more providers at all levels of practice.

Her first advocacy initiative was to send a message to legislators this spring urging that they invest in getting more people to choose mental health work and to come to Vermont. Her first advocacy initiative was to send a message to legislators this spring urging that they invest in getting more people to choose mental health work and to come to Vermont, as well as to enhance training. At the time, the legislature was considering a $5 million boost to fund the workforce through training, loan repayment incentives, and other means of “cultivating, attracting, recruiting, and retaining high-quality substance use disorder treatment and mental health professionals.” The current plan to add inpatient beds to create capacity is “putting the cart before the horse” if there aren’t enough trained staff, Wolf said. There are also many individuals who don’t have access to community providers, she said. They might be able to avoid the hospital if they had that access, she suggested. “The provider population has to increase here,” she said. After looking at the draft language in the budget, Wolf asked that the legislature add two members to a committee that will recommend which workforce development projects get funded. “I think that primary care physicians should be included in this committee. … [They] are di-

rect providers for many patients with substance abuse and mental health concerns. They are often the first line of defense. ... I also think that having a consumer sit on this committee would be helpful and offer a broader scope.” The legislature adopted that specific proposal when it approved the $5 million fund. Wolf has a BA in nursing herself and said she had compassion for the situation many of the emergency department nurses face. “There isn’t a lot of [psychiatric] training for these nurses, [and] I also understand what it’s like” to face competing demands with other patient needs in the emergency room, she said. In contrast, she could see that many people who were “hired and trained to do this” because they wanted to practice in the field had different attitudes. “There was something that shone through that they loved their job.” Wolf indicated one reason she wanted to become a consumer voice was the inequities between how psychiatric patients and other patients are admitted. Her last hospital admission 10 years ago came about through a direct admission arranged by her doctor. This time she was told to call the Howard Center crisis services first and learned that everyone has to go through the emergency department. “I didn’t understand it, just like anyone [else] wouldn’t understand it.” After the decision was made that she should be admitted, they told her there were no beds. She sees unequal reimbursement for psychiatry as part of the problem. “The reimbursement is horrible,” she said. There is also ongoing stigma against patients, such as requiring everyone to wear paper gowns in the emergency room. “It was really a label,” Wolf said. “I found that whole thing so depersonalizing.” She said it was also a challenge to have to go for days without outdoor air. “The security guard could walk you around in the ED,” Wolf said, “but there was no way to help people in the ED get outside.”

More Patients Arriving in Emergency Rooms for Help with a Mental Health Crisis 2015





The emergency room should be “a way station, not a destination.” About 2/3rds of those waiting are voluntary patients, and “almost any data that you see will undercount the number of people waiting for a bed.” Robert Pierattini, MD, University of Vermont Medical Center


More People Waiting a Day or More in the Emergency Room 2015



More People Waiting 10 Days or More in the Emergency Room 2015




“Anything in this one day plus bucket is problematic.” Michael DelTrecco, Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Care Systems


Data Source: Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems




Responses to Last Poll: Is a Drug That Tracks When It Is Swallowed a Good Idea? RUTLAND – The winter Counterpoint telephone poll asked, “A psych med has been approved that has a sensor to track when you swallowed it and makes a record that you or someone else with permission can look up. Do you think this is a good idea?” There were 24 responses, and 20 of them – including one by lengthy written comment – voted no. “I think this thing is highly intrusive and invasive and in the most intimate kind of way, entering people’s bodies and collecting information,” one caller said. “It’s bound to scare the hell out of those of us who already have fears related to that.” “I think people should have choice, and I think people should have privacy,” the caller concluded. “This is wrong in so many ways,” another caller said. “You might just as well start tracking us so you know where all the mentally ill people are in the U.S. That is so against my rights.” Several callers also expressed fear that the new technology would be used for the purpose of coercion. “I think it’s very risky in terms of those people who support involuntary treatment. … This is an aid to involuntary treatment. It makes it easier because you can track people if you don’t trust them,” one said.

Discrimination Cited

The person who wrote a response said, “As a patient who is already receiving discrimination and distrust from the medical community, society as a whole, and even their family, having a

pill that tracks when they take it can be viewed as another way to control the patient. “In this day and age of those who would rather medicate than use alternative ways to help those with medical illness diagnoses, it is just another easy way for doctors to diminish the patient’s ability and choice, which is illegal as the patient has a right to refuse treatment.” The response continued, “This can cause emotional strain between the patient and doctor or the patient and their family, which leads to the inevitable physical toll that stress takes on the body. “As a society [that] has already put a huge stigma on those with a mental health diagnoses, having the ability to regulate who takes their medication and who does not could be used in courts and jails. “Overall, the negative physical, mental and emotional effects this medication could have on a patient far outweigh the good and would bring up an entirely new struggle in the mental health community,” it concluded. Another response added, “To pretend that it’s for the patient’s benefit, it’s just really, really insulting.” Several callers also blamed the pharmaceutical industry. “I think it’s a very big boon for Big Pharma; Big Pharma sees that it can make a lot of money,” one said. “It’s a terrible idea, typical of the pharmaceutical industry,” said another.

“yes” discussed its use for involuntary purposes, saying, “Sometimes there are situations where people who can by no means be kept safe – safe from injuring themselves or safe from injuring someone else – and in that kind of situation if everything else has been tried, that’s the thing that would help in the moment.” The second caller who supported the new drug called it “a good safety net.” “I think that a lot of people forget to take their meds, and it’s a good check for the provider to know they’re taking their meds.”

The winter Counterpoint poll question was:

A psych med has been approved that has a sensor to track when you swallowed it and makes a record that you or someone else with permission can look up. Do you think this is a good idea?



83% “NO”

Four Yes Votes

One of the four people who responded with a

Counterpoint Telephone Poll QUESTION: During the most recent legislative session, VPS advocated that instead of adding more hospital beds, the State invest in prevention and early intervention by developing peer-run community centers that include two-bed, peer respites in every Vermont county. Which would you choose to improve Vermont’s mental health system?

For more hospital beds, vote “Yes.” For a network of peer-run community centers that include two-bed peer respites, vote “No.”

VOTE by calling:


(Toll-free call)

>> To vote “YES”

(more hospital beds) Dial Extension 12

>> To Vote “NO” (peer centers with respite instead) Dial Extension 13 Results of the poll will be published in the next issue of Counterpoint.



Hospital Survivor Becomes Advocate MONTPELIER – Erica Cohn Cohn said the experience of has long believed it is important testifying in the legislature made to speak out as an advocate, and her “feel good about being a voice she got her chance this winter for other people.” when she testified before the It was an “honor and privilege legislature’s House Health Care to speak to people who really care Committee to urge for more acand wanted to listen.” countability and professional The setting before the comtraining on inpatient psychiatmittee was not intimidating, she ric units. said. Her mind was “focused on “The more information’s out the content” and “the key points I there, the more people in auwant[ed] to bring up,” and “it just thority are able to make good kind of flowed out of me.” decisions,” she said. Cohn said Cohn said she thought some that she wanted to “make legisof her confidence came from earlators and other mental health lier experiences in high school advocates know what’s really when she was selected as the going on … from somebody who student member of the Board of has experienced it.” Education of Baltimore County, Erica Cohn shares her points during her interview with Counterpoint. Cohn has experienced it: She Maryland. She recognizes that spent a month in the Central Vermont Medical tiated the emotional abuse she experienced at “everybody’s comfort level is different” but Center emergency department waiting for an VPCH, where a nurse taunted and emotionally urged people “who are not overwhelmed by tellinpatient bed, was the victim of a documented abused her over a two-day period, according to ing their story” to speak out. episode of patient abuse during three months at its records. Even if there isn’t a big event, like the legisShe said she believed most inpatient staff “do lative advocacy day, people can meet one-onthe Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital, and says she was denied admission at the University of not have adequate training and understanding one with their local representative, or put their Vermont Medical Center once because her dis- of the full spectrum of mental illness,” including name out to groups like Vermont Psychiatric charge planning would have been too challeng- her very severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. Survivors, Cohn said. As a result, even though she was a voluntary ing for staff. “If you’re too shy to share your story,” it can be “I felt the mental health inpatient system was patient, she was held for two months on the done by “giving information to someone you’re extremely flawed,” she said, and she became de- “very tiny” low stimulation sub-unit during a comfortable with, to relay to others,” or can be six-month stay at the Brattleboro Retreat. termined to speak out. shared anonymously, she said. Much of the encouragement to do so has come Or, simply “encourage others to do it, sort of from providers, Cohn said. The director of the on your behalf,” Cohn said. The important thing “I want you to know what is for as much different first-hand information emergency department at CVMC told her, “You have the ability to do that.” as possible to reach decision-makers. the real deal is and what So when staff at Stepping Stones, the group During the advocacy day, Cohn said she heard happens behind the scenes home where she now lives, told her in January some representatives of advocacy organizations that Mental Health Advocacy Day was coming say that money should be put into outpatient sometimes,” she told the up at the statehouse and that she should speak, services and not hospitals, so that a crisis can be Cohn said, “I was thrilled at the opportunity.” “nipped in the bud.” committee. She told herself, “Finally, I’m well enough “Part of that is great,” she said, but “there’s alto have this opportunity. I can go stand before ways the need for hospitalization” at times, and Regarding her month-long stay in the emer- “we need money in both.” She felt it was importthese people and really tell my story, [while] othgency department at CVMC, Cohn testified, ant to share the need for improved hospital care ers can’t.” That kind of testimony is “extremely valu- “They could not find any facility in the state of in her testimony. able, in fact it’s crucial,” said Rep. Bill Lippert Vermont that was willing to take me. I didn’t see There are “people waiting all over the state” in of Hinesburg, chair of the House Health Care the light of day for four weeks.” emergency rooms for support in a mental health “I want you to know what the real deal is and crisis, Cohn said. One night during a week in Committee. “Often the most powerful testimony, the testi- what happens behind the scenes sometimes,” 2015 that she waited in the UVMMC emergency mony that has the largest impact on legislators’ she told the committee. room, there were 13 others there. Cohn testified that there was a need for addidecisions, is personal experience.” She said that with the shortage of beds, someAnother member, Rep. Betsy Dunn of Essex, tional funding for both inpatient and outpatient times being suicidal or a danger to others is the said the fact that “they’ve come to the statehouse, mental health services. “Early intervention at only way to be admitted, even though she bewilling to put themselves out there” means she the outpatient level of care is extremely import- lieves there are other times that a hospital is gives it much more weight than emails she re- ant and a greater number of case managers is needed. needed, as they are overworked and the retenceives. “I wasn’t suicidal but I just couldn’t take care “I think that hearing testimony from people tion rate is inadequate,” she told the legislators, of myself. I was so sick [at one point] I would who have been involved in the [mental health] “but the level of severity of some patients is such spend a week in bed [at a time], no fluids, no system themselves gives a lot more credence” to that quality inpatient care is still a need.” foods. I would have so many intrusive thoughts,” Near the end of her testimony, Cohn stressed Cohn said. the issue, she said, and “informs part of my dethat “some people were really wonderful” during cision-making around [a] bill.” Cohn said that she finally got help through Cohn told the legislators she felt there was each of her hospital stays. Massachusetts General Hospital and its OCD “Without the grace and kindness of some specialty unit at McLean Hospital in Boston. a greater need for accountability for hospitals through visits by the Division of Licensing and people at all these facilities, I don’t know how “That was another reason I wanted to testify,” I would have tolerated it.” Since then, “I have she said. “It’s just sad that I had to travel 3 1/2 Protection. That agency had investigated and substan- made some great strides,” she said. hours just to get the care I needed.”

Peer-Operated Project Grant Applications Open Until June 29 RUTLAND — Vermont Psychiatric Survivors is accepting applications for FY 2019 grants up to $3,000 for projects operated by adults with lived experience of mental illness for the benefit of adults with lived experience of mental illness. The money is provided by the Vermont

Department of Mental Health through a federal grant. Examples of the kinds of initiatives that might be funded include education in peer leadership, peer mentoring, drop-in centers, art projects, peer crisis diversion, peer advocacy, and recovery and wellness-oriented initiatives.

Access a grant application at this link: www. uploads/2018/05/FY2019-POP-Grant-Application.pdf Applications are due by 5 p.m. on June 29. Applications may be submitted by mail or email.


Vermont Mad Pride is a march and celebration organized by psychiatric survivors, mental health consumers, mad people, and those the world has deemed “mentally ill.� Mad Pride is about challenging discrimination, advocating for rights, affirming mad identities, remembering and participating in mad history, and having fun. Our lives and contributions are valuable and need celebration!



The Arts



Natural Order I clip the bush out front, snip branches too long, the ones that don’t conform to the shape, the style, the moment I’m trying to make of the front yard. The blades zip together, sharp in their cuts as I continue to pare the leaves, the unwanted, the dead. I believe there is more paring to do in my life, more stripping of moments I must not rely on for my own are withered thoughts. For my life could be the springtime for this plant, the flowering bud, the rich green of each leaf, the dark soil feeding, the water quenching. And I could be okay to be okay. I don’t have to hurt over the years that the bush Didn’t grow, didn’t make a statement for the yard. I cut and prune, careful in my design.

Louise Wahl Contest Winners Poetry

In with the breath, I cast off the unwanted like the trauma, littering the ground with it, molding my perfection. I stand back to admire and realize there will always be more to take away, but perhaps I can let it go back to the wild living, creating its own way to be, happy in the natural wonder of itself. I close my scissors. Let them rust. Let the beauty be in its living. I sit with sunglasses on protecting my view, as I sit back and watch the natural order take care of my yard. And it’s okay.

by Jodi Girouard

South Burlington

Addiction Ship You sailed off on the Addiction Ship the tide’s sweeping you away I’m standing at the shoreline begging you to stay The current moves so swiftly you fade away from view The drug now holds you captive the nightmare has come true Light dances on the water past and present merge as one I pray that you’ll return to me on the wings of the rising sun I see your face in childhood when dreams danced in your eyes I held you close when you were scared finding truth beneath the lies The pillow holds the memories of your laughter and your tears Where prayers were softly whispered as seasons disappeared You left a single feather On your journey to take flight My nest once full is empty as you wandered out of sight You slipped away in silence drugs ease guilt and pain How many nights did you cry alone feeling hopeless and ashamed? You have given up your childhood dreams to embrace the perfect high But, my love for you is endless and I’ll never say goodbye So, I will wait here on the shoreline praying you’ll come back to me I will hold you close, and never let you go Till you’re clean, and straight and free …

by Bonnie Lynch Bennington

The Arts . 13


From Madness To Celebration Brattleboro Artist To Perform at River Garden Gallery

What’s Bugging Me -­ colored pencil

Pamela Spiro Wagner, a Brattleboro artist, will be speaking about her art at the Strolling of the Heifers’ River Garden Gallery on July 6 and 13 in conjunction with her current display there. Wagner Meera the makes art that depicts her journey from Meerkat with madwoman, diagnosed with schizophrenia and disabilities in psychiatric hospitals for nearly 15 years, to (hearing aids poet, award winning author and artist. In her and cane) middle 50s Wagner, now 65, discovered a — papier mache hidden talent for art. On July 6 at the Gallery at 157 Main Street at 6 p.m., Wagner will discuss her treatment and how the making of art led to her recovery. On Friday, July 13 she will discuss her art, presently on the front wall of River Garden Gallery, and will read from her memoir and books of poetry during the Brown Bag Lunch series at noon. Questions and answers will follow. Wagner is author of Divided Minds: Twin Sisters and Their Journey Through Schizophrenia and other books. The Strolling of the Heifers is best known for its annual parade in June, but describes itself as “not just a parade — it’s a movement.” The Stroll works year-round to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation at farm and food businesses, to connect people and organizations of many kinds around sustainable living and resilient communities, and to promote the value of local food systems, local thinking and Slow Living.

Poppies Peeking People — water colors and colored pencil

Broken and Lost Broken pieces of a heart once full of unabashed love lay on the floor like dust. Hurt ... Anger ... Hatred ... Pain ... they all blend into one and become all she knows. Lies ... Deceit ... She’s the one who loves with all her heart, holding nothing back, yet she’s also the one who feels unlovable. Darkness fogs her dreams. She can no longer see a happy ending. She retraces her steps throughout the years, remembers all the anguished memories that she’s tried so hard to forget and erase. She was just a little girl ... How can someone hurt a little girl? Where was the love and compassion that she so desperately needed? Today she reverts back to that lost little girl. Crouched in the corner, rocking back and forth ...

All she wants is someone to hold her, to tell her it’s ok, to tell her that she’s loved. Tears fall down her face as she realizes ... She’s all alone. So she numbs herself and forgets her pain ... at least for the moment. She stands up and wipes away the tears. Time to smile. Time to laugh. Time to play pretend. She walks another day through life drenched in fake happiness, until she can crawl up in her bed and cry bottled-up, relentless tears that nobody will ever hear. The pain inside is killing her slowly. Will this nightmare ever end for her?

by Anna Bernier Newport

The Louise Wahl Memorial Writing Contest was named for a former Vermont activist to encourage creative writing by psychiatric survivors, mental health consumers and peers.


The Arts

Louise Wahl Contest Winners Prose


When Lightning Strikes When lightning strikes, it’s random, catastrophic, yet beautiful. That which is hit is pierced by an energy so strong, a force so great, that it doesn’t ever return to what it once was. Sometimes I still feel the ashes in my body. Sometimes I swear I will never rid the aftershock. The lightning didn’t ignite a fire within me, instead it stripped me of the chance of ever putting it out. Some days the flame subsides down to embers, some days it’s just a warmth that stays within me. On those days I see how the lightning began to fuel me in a way I’d never known before. On those days I see how it electrifies me, breathing neurotic and excited life into my bones. On the days where the flame does not go out the lightning pierces every part of me. I relive the initial blow, unable to see anything but bolts of light engulfing me. I am no longer afraid of the lightning storm. I no longer fear the days when the fire within me is not in my control. To beat the storm, I had to become it.

by Morgan Spur South Bulington

Preparatory Notes for an Existential Trial: (a medley of excerpts)

Revere Beach: and the sky goes on forever. Regardless of what myths we’ve learned of oceans ending, of another shore, all we are left is this blur-grey ghost town vista where the crease between the waters and the atmosphere has yielded to a mist–where our imaginings are stranded sopping wet or tranquilized mid-sentence in the teargas of its funereal amnesia. Just like you did, all of these shells wound up empty, a coast littered with open books, hardcovers with all of their pages torn out of them. They break into mosaics under our steps, yours still with mine. Only there is no question now as to what can be assembled from these shell-fragments of so truer a porcelain, dyed with the indigos and violets I had hoped to paint us in, but which I couldn’t have stolen from the mussels and the quahogs. There is no question at all of gluing broken things together. For there is nothing that could bind them to what they were before the fracture. Some things are here as glimmers, you might have said. But what I think you would have meant is that something like a glimmer can exist. It’s as if drowning were a way to bury a secret, to tuck the truth you were yourself into a place out of this world, where such truths belong anyway. At any rate, what does this bulldozer know of that? It bears down on the sand and builds up dunes for city maintenance, for flood prevention. As if it could be stopped, that force in us demanding endings. It is early March, the wind blows a good part of the beach to the opposite sidewalk behind us, where the Chinese take-out place is still open, and which we named Little Revere Beach, half in jest. Unable to convince myself that what the wind now asks of me is to turn home, towards the Chinese joint, and scurry down the sandy steps into the cavelike subway; it seems wrong to presume it shouldn’t want me here, simply because it blows away my hat, and turns the pages of my books for me. It seems rather to summon me to itself, to challenge me to test the ties that I should hope have bound my hat to my head, and that keep all my papers in order. And everything in my good ear, the one susceptible to voices, had whispered mary mary mary retrogressing through the faces I had known that fit the name, till I alighted on her, walking huddled against Allen, the two of them crumpling in the wind, alongside the chainlink fence that sagged towards the ground like a cold iron hammock. To wake up in this life, on the side of a highway, five years old, and just like any babe, thrown screaming into the world, only in her case it must have been so obvious, the absurdity of it all; to see the traffic so heedlessly bulletting past her, the truck drivers for whom such highways were a given, merely part of the commute, the daily world, but never a place–as it was for her–to find yourself somehow existing. Lovebirds, I thought, and told them both to hold my books for me. Then vaulting myself over the waist-high stone wall, I charged past the bulldozer, pretend-flapping my wings, my hat thrown far behind me as

I ran, towards the breaking waves lapping the sand up like wide blue tongues. Allen watched from the wall, amused if slightly wounded, as Mary followed suit and we both screamed there at the water’s edge into the sonic wall that muted not only our minute voices, but the whole surrounding world in which we stood, usurping its busied soundtrack, inviting all of its naked meaninglessness to reveal itself to us behind the thick veil-curtain of this oceanic droning. Mary and I looked at each other and I knew that I would have to be silent on the train ride back, and that I’d be unable to, but that I had broken enough wings to know that birds, like angels, are only real until you touch them with your trembling, cursed hands. There was a girl on the red line later that night. I was alone. She got on at Harvard and sat at the very end of the less populated side of the train car. I’d sequestered myself in the corner there, in a seat across from her. An affluent couple stood nearby, holding the poles for support, looking down periodically at the contents of their shopping bag, as though checking on a sleeping infant. When the belltone sounded from the intercom and the doors slid closed on cue, and the train lurched, groaning, like an injured beast, the girl reached into her coat pocket and emerged with a pack of cigarettes. She took one out and lit it as she leaned back against her seat, holding herself there for a rigid interval before exhaling and collapsing into a contracted posture, her elbows jagged on her thighs and her chin stuck forward, staring straight ahead into what holograms were thrown there by the play of tunnel lights impregnating the glossy black reflections in the window opposite, with cubism-esque dimensions and old-time film footage of dancers, flickering suspended in her nimbus, and promptly disappearing when the tunnel would go black. The couple looked around themselves, incredulous and nervous. Why was this happening? They wanted to scream. They moved, along with others, towards the opposite end of the car, noticeably flustered, but no one said anything. There was nothing they could have accused her of that they hadn’t already on the basis of her skin. She had a look in her eyes that was scornful and musing, and tinged by bitter levity it sneered at age-old torments and familiar sourceless voices that had become tiresome to her, so that they almost seemed endearing now, now that they could not reach her. To see them flat and mute and writhing now, in the humiliation of their sudden flaccidity, she might have laughed, but why laugh, when the hollow space from which the laughter rose and in which it would reverberate would only mock such gaiety with echoes that bore with them a reminder of the indis(Continued on page 15)

The Arts

SUMMER 2018 (Preparatory Notes • Continued from page 14) cernible and tomb-dark finitude in which they were enclosed. Withdrawn from some great ghost chase then, she seemed to have cut herself loose with a sweeping renunciation; the phantoms of vindication that had goaded her on for so long, that had stretched on so long before her, had dissipated entirely. I watched her smoking, vulnerable in her embitteredness, and felt myself somehow rapt in her very disavowal. Somehow, perhaps, I’d been sworn off too, by default, and could walk off the train in innocence. This small transgression, which could really amount to nothing more than a minor fine incurred for the price of a deep breath at the end of a long night, nevertheless seemed decisive. And I marveled then, at how so trivial a gesture testified so unambiguously to the foundationlessness of everything those outraged passengers believed their lives to be. And I thought then of Tristan, who, like me, was capable of doing something crazy. Only, unlike me, he’d found himself in handcuffs for it. I fell down dead, he’d said to me, the last time I talked to him. I fell down dead in a symbolic act. Before his “break,” as I had learned to call it, I had come to blows with Tristan. I told him you’re not fucking crazy man, you’re acting! He kept stepping outside again, after we’d all come in from having cigarettes, to rub the belly of the Buddha statuette out on the lawn. What did I know then, of the rose gardens we find ourselves in here? How can I explain now, having been in them myself, how certain instances of Eden can never be returned to, that they can only be encountered, and that the physical location of these gardens has very little bearing on the nature of their bloom, so that, revisiting today the place where you’d communed with something latent in those fleurs du mal last night, you would think yourself lost, in the wrong garden, in some inconspicuous place devoid of magic where city workers trim the hedges and take their lunch break by the fountains, from which had arisen, just the night before, such curious, ephemeral visages. I remembered being led through a succession of heavy doors. There were too many doors for each hallway and we kept turning corners, so that, between the corners turned and doors arrived at, I wouldn’t have been able to recount the sequential combination of the lefts and rights and thresholds through which I had just passed. I’d have lost track and would no longer be able to discern which direction I stood in with reference to the direction I stood in upon entering the building from outside, so that I’d find myself entrusted to the ward goon who was leading me like Virgil did Dante into hell, and finally I myself would feel committed, subjected to the doctors’ authority to decide who is sane and who is insane, and so that even I, a visitor, could at any point fall victim to the accusations of “imbalance” that they shot like laser beams out of their glowing eyes. The building architects seemed to have designed it just so, with the



superfluous doorways, each a further security, another toll-booth test, filtration against pathogens. Each was coded with a computerized lock system which only the smiling naïve intern, who had passed his sociology exams, was able to access with a swipe of the ID card that was strung on a lanyard round his neck. This is fucking cybernetics. I was thinking of artificial neural networks; they were modeled on the human eye. An information stimulus (light, or in this case, the patient) enters the system through a sort of pupil and is channeled through the information gates, which codify it, reinterpret it in terms of computer-logic, in other words, reduce it to some mathematical parody of itself. Then the altered stimulus becomes a system output, the desired output, and flows back to the world with a bar code on its neck, lobotomized. Such is the function of all schools, all prisons, all wards and every search engine. We came to a final door. What the hell happened man? was all I could muster. I fell down dead, he said to me. Beneath the orange halo of the basketball hoop that was nailed to the old pine at the end of his driveway. He had let himself be felled there like a tree by a chainsaw. It was an act of protest, I supposed. The more I thought about it, the more insane his persecutors seemed. How could he, jailed there in that house, with the harsh electric blue light filling up the living room, nearly to the ceiling now, like a flood that no one noticed, how could he have stayed there, with the TV dinners floating into his bedroom and dropped there by an impersonal hand? But what a crime it is to try to feel something miraculous, to seek out something from which you will not return as what you were before? We spoke in hushed tones then about the bounty they have out for any wayfaring eyes that try to smuggle such miracles of being into a place inside their heads where they can always feel its fetal, pulsing warmth. I thought of Carter, himself subjected to similar persecutions. How he’d tried to have his Ramadan unending, to become a true ascetic in a world of lukewarm mystics. How they’d stuck him through with IV tubes like a voodoo doll and told him he was sick. A sick, sick punk. If there existed a court where such appeals could be made, I would submit the following photograph as evidence of something which, in what follows, I will attempt, not to conjure, but to access. Here it is, from two perspectives: 1.) There it sits upon the mantle of a horizontal plane; dark before a place where a box gets opened and light follows an order to rise therefrom–the way a sacrificial first grader floats in hypnosis towards the of(Continued on page 16)

Louise Wahl Memorial Writing Contest 2018 Winners Prose



First Place - $100 - When Lightning Strikes Morgan Spur, South Burlington Second Place - $50 - Preparatory Notes for an Existential Trial

% Josh Lyons, Boston, MA %

Third Place - $25 - For Renee Jill Tuttle, Charlestown, NH

(to be published in fall issue)


First Place - $50 - Natural Order Jodi Girouard, South Burlington


Second Place - $25 - Addiction Ship Bonnie Lynch, Bennington


Third Place - $10 - Broken and Lost Anna Bernier, Newport

Enter the 2019 Contest: Deadline March 15, 2019 Named for a former Vermont activist to encourage creative writing by psychiatric survivors, mental health consumers and peers. One entry per category (prose or poetry); 3,000 word preferred maximum. Repeat entrants limited to two First Place awards. Entries are judged by an independent panel.

Send submissions to:

Counterpoint The Service Building 128 Merchants Row, Suite 606 Rutland, VT 05701

or email to:

Include name and address.


The Arts


(Preparatory Notes • Continued from page 15)

ficemax classroom desk alter of a grade school cult disciplinarian–this, this apparition of crows is stunned by that glowing; these three figures muddying their silhouettes in some occult charades game, they play at being signifier, the shadow correlate of a watercolor mountain range for this urban skyline panorama, the likes of which only such suits as this one, the beholder, could afford. And there too, with the post-dusk haze almost a color, almost brave enough to declare itself derivative of indigo, there too something sick laughs, crying. Almost evidence of something, before having been plunged into bathwater where became diluted what might have turned out to be blood. “How did they get here?” the suited one asks himself. “Did they go through my fucking apartment?!” And in asking of this question he has already formulated his conclusion, filed his police report, so to speak: “They must have.” But precisely there, where this suit would have closed the file, another question glares jealously, waiting to be answered. If we say tentatively that it asks “How could this happen?” we must define exactly what we mean by this. For even if “this” was a break-in, it could not have been an ordinary one, there being nothing missing from the apartment, and nothing broken. What rule was being broken then? For the suit at least, any misdemeanor charge to fingerpoint towards this ill-timed specter, to make it go away, would suffice. But that is just the sort of lie suits sell themselves good sleep with. And so… 2.) “yo, simon.” “huh?” “ay, what’s good with those cigarettes?” “goddamn man, they’re for spliffs.” “I got you Tzaro.” (mike) “word, I guess a shitty one will do.” Someone cracks open a can. “one of those in the bottles is for me though.” “there’s only one left.” “Shit. then it’s mine yo.” “this place is too insane… hey, you see any power tools around?” “I’m try’na take in this view man. You over here scheming on power tools and shit.” The muffled sound, not of ascension, but of a Sisyphus laboring to mount his ridiculous staircase. A reticent creaking spills a piss stain of light shafts and Tzaro turns to receive his enhaloment. Our picture stills upon the image of a would-be martyr. In real-time too, no one moves from this position. On either side of Tzaro a hooded gargoyle holds stony, focused in its duty to scrutinize the ants, the social atoms, that allowed for such concrete heights to exist. Flying into Tzaro’s bleary eyes the figure of the Other holds the door of the roof-hatch–like a scrap of sheet

metal for his pathetic umbrella–above his puzzled head, which, with his free hand, he scratches, trying to summon forth the most effective demeanor to showcase in order to mask his fright and confusion, or simply in order to get these three rats off his rooftop in the most efficient way. There is a sort of stand-off here, a real encounter. And something recalls Sartre’s almost embarrassing hilarity before a prison wall. Critics had their jibes with him, derided him as a misanthropic loon, jailed in contingency regardless of his refusal to accept it theoretically. And yet, there’s something there, in that manacled defiance. Something which spits off the roof into traffic, and simulates the benevolently starred moment when a bird shits liberally upon a passing cop car. There is a brief interval wherein is suspended, between Tzaro’s black marble eyes and the frantic eye-darting of the Other, the realization of surrealism’s ideal; they hold it there, the Other, and Tzaro, for some time, becoming intimate, invading each other. And then something slips, the reigns slip and the tautened thread on which hung all of their suspenseful hearts was slackened and, thus prompted, the Other cleared his throat and asserted himself once again. “I don’t know how you guys got up here but you gotta go.” There the hatch swallows him, having had enough of being a crocodile mouth amusing a bird who believes to be holding it open. And Tzaro turns. Simon and Mike turn. The three look at each other, eyes wide, not yet able to laugh and root. “Alright yea let’s get outta here.” and clambering back down the scaffolding, they slip away, free beings. You will ask what that could possibly prove, some punks drinking beer on a rooftop. You will ask what trial I, delusional, believe I am engaged in. You will ask before what judge I make my inarticulate appeals. What jury I hope to convince. What sentence I aim at evading. I will say only that this world is more like Kafka than you suspect, that our lives run a narrow gamut of officially stamped and approved possibilities prefigured in an economic circuit where we are bought and sold to an abstract domination. That, incarnate, we are born to a control state. That we obey traffic lights and walking signals. That it is possible to experience yourself as somehow miraculous, somehow having found yourself here, in this way, waiting in the freezing rain for a city bus that becomes more like a legend the more behind-schedule it runs, in this laughable train wreck of a world, the rules of which are so flimsy and inapplicable that bursting into hysterics you begin to draw looks from the others at the bus stop, yourself incredulous at the naiveté of these children so taken in by an imaginary game, and yet one of them yourself, from every angle.

by Josh Lyons Boston, MA


Best of Intentions

Share Your Art! Express Yourself in Drawing, Prose and Poetry... Counterpoint is About Peers Sharing With Peers

Email to or mail to Counterpoint, The Service Building, 128 Merchants Row, Suite 606, Rutland, VT 05701 Please include name and town

I have the best of intentions, my dear. Crazy how fast time passes; we blink our eyes and it is the end of another year. Mistakes we’ve made fall past our lips, and slowly disappear. I just want you to know how much I wish you were here. I won’t waste my breath trying to convince you of my worth. I was born alone, I will die alone, we will all return to the earth. As if it really matters, we live with a sense of urgency. I hope you know how much you mean to me. When my body tires, and my time comes to an end, I will not forget the time we spent, happy to call you a friend. When my mind is exhausted, and my passion fades away, I will think of you with a grin, and reminisce on better days. Just remember that though the world is cold, and you may not know what to do ... I will never regret the days I wasted, dreaming of loving you.

by Thomas Streeter Barton

In the fall of 2015, I spent a month at the Brattleboro Retreat. That time gave me a lot of time to think about my life, and since that time, I have used poetry as a method of expressing my feelings, turning them into a concrete piece of art. I get great enjoyment from writing, and strongly agree that it can help people gain a new perspective, and for those who find it difficult to verbally present their thoughts and feelings, poetry can enable them to think through what’s on their mind and present it, releasing them from whatever stress or sadness they are currently experiencing.




VPS Adds Peer Advocates in Rutland County

RUTLAND – Vermont Psychiatric Survivors has announced two new members of its staff. Both are peer advocates based in Rutland County and joined VPS in early 2018. Christina Temple Christina Temple studied Human Services and Business at Community College of Vermont. Before joining VPS, she worked at The Vermont Country Store for six years as a clerk at the North Clarendon distribution center. She has raised two sons as a single mother. One son is an assistant film editor in Hollywood; the other is a teacher in Kansas City, Missouri. Temple says she enjoys walking in the woods with her dog and taking her swimming, making and

maintaining flower gardens, cooking, music, and going to the ocean. Amanda Elizabeth Leite Amanda Elizabeth Leite studied social work at Castleton University from 2011-14. She worked as a nanny for the last decade. She describes herself as interested in helping children of all needs and abilities reach their goals and live joyful lives by working with families on building support systems for their children. In addition to working for Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, Leite owns and operates her own design business. She says she has a love for reading and writing and in her spare time enjoys volunteering for her church.

Christina Temple

Amanda Elizabeth Leite

ECT Statistics Show Little Change in Volume of Use WATERBURY – The use of electroconvulsive therapy in Vermont has been relatively stable over the past 14 years, with a little over 100 people annually receiving ECT, according to the annual report of data released by the Department of Mental Health in April. ECT is in use primarily at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington and the Veteran’s Administration in White River Junction. UVM has dropped some in use over

the past four years, from 98 patients in fiscal year 2014 to 59 in 2017. Central Vermont Medical Center also has the capacity for ECT and provided it between 2008 and 2013 but has used it infrequently since. Of 102 patients evaluated, slightly under half reported having some degree of memory impairment after at least one session of ECT. The average number of sessions per patient was 13. More than half of the UVMMC patients re-

ceived their full course of ECT as outpatients. More than two-thirds of the sessions were with both electrode placements on one side of the head, called unilateral ECT. “Memory problems are more closely associated with bilateral ECT [the use of electrodes on opposite sides] although they can occur with other electrode placements as well,” the DMH report noted. Under DMH policy, the use of bilateral ECT requires additional specific consent.

Biss Award Will Honor ‘Family Voice Champions’ WILLISTON – The Vermont Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health has announced the creation of an annual “family voice champion” award named for Charlie Biss, who received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the organization last winter after his retirement from 30 years with the Department of Mental Health as the Child, Youth and Family Unit director. Biss provided leadership and vision for 30 years and was an instrumental leader in the development of the system of care for children in Vermont, according to a press release from the VFFCMH. “Charlie was a champion for family voice and a persistent advocate for prevention. His persistence helped establish these core values in our system of care. He was a pioneer for Wraparound Services and dedicated to making community-based supports available to all Vermonters,” the VFFCMH said. In his honor, the VFFCMH said it is instituting the Charlie Biss Child, Youth and Family Voice Champion Award. Families, organizations and individuals can nominate candidates. Criteria include:

• The nominee has made a lasting contribution to children’s mental health on the state and/or national level. • The nominee’s work and advocacy reflect the values of the Vermont Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health and the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health. • The nominee has contributed to the body of knowledge of the philosophy or practice of strengths-based care, family voice and choice. • The nominee has compassion for children, youth and their families in their work.

Open Studio Offered at Howard BURLINGTON – The Howard Center Arts Collective has announced an Open Studio program at Westview House every Monday from noon to 2 p.m. Are you an experienced (or inexperienced) painter? Do you like doodling? Do you enjoy making art in a nurturing and supportive environment?” the center’s flyer asked. “If your answer is ‘yes’ to any of these, or if you’re just curious, come join us.”

Obituaries Freddie Senser-Lee

Freddie Senser-Lee (aka Fredd Lee, aka Fredd Lee Senser), 74, died January 14, 2018, in South Glens Falls, New York. He was a past contributor to Counterpoint. He was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Senser-Lee was described as someone who said things no one else had thought to say; a universally recognized and profound eccentric and storyteller; a consummate bohemian; and a lover and creator of enduring friendships, unforgettable impressions, grand and loud works of art, poetry in all forms and beautiful landscapes. Senser-Lee served as a small business co-owner of five branches of Arianna’s Unique and Freddie Lee’s Unique Boutique throughout Vermont; as a curator in Montpelier; as an important part of bringing to life the underground railroad mural at the Vermont Law School in South Royalton; as a collaborator on a mural expressing a vision for world peace internationally exhibited through the United Nations; and as a provocateur and initiator of many other colorful projects. He is survived by his mother and two twin sisters in Cleveland; his

son, Ryan Senser, of Brooklyn, New York; and his daughter, Breanna Ayer-Senser, and longtime partner, Mary Ayer, of Montpelier.

Clare Munat

Clare Munat, 79, of Landgrove, Vermont, died January 28, 2017, at Mt. Ascutney Hospital’s hospice. She was a member of Counterpoint’s editorial board. Munat was born in South Bend, Indiana, was married in 1961 and had four children. She received her master’s degree in anthropology at New York University. After moving to Vermont, Munat became involved as a member of local school boards, and in the early 1990s began her affiliation with the Vermont chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI-VT). She was president of the board of directors for 12 years and was a facilitator for both its Family Support Group and Connection Recovery Support Group. She was a member of the Brattleboro Retreat Consumer Advisory Council, the Rutland Regional Medical Center Community Advisory Committee and the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital Advisory Committee.


Rights For the first time, the Vermont legislature has passed a law that takes away a fundamental right from someone who has not committed a crime and does not have a label of mental illness. There’s something about that that feels pretty good, in a very backwards kind of way. People diagnosed with a mental illness are the only people who can be locked up because of a prediction that they may be dangerous – without having actually committed any crime. Now anyone who is believed to be dangerous can have their constitutional right to possess a firearm taken away from them. No mental illness required. It’s an actual recognition that maybe a person can be dangerous for a reason other than a psychiatric one. Research tells us that the greatest predictor of violence is a past history of violence – not a history of mental illness. The new law means a right will be taken away based on actual indicators of behavior, not based on social labels imposed by psychiatry. Getting people to realize that someone can be violent without it meaning they have a mental illness is progress. Some legislators did still merge the issue in their minds. One said that the bill was “a lunatic control law.” He later apologized and tried to distinguish his intent by saying he meant people who commit “a senseless, depraved and horrific crime … whether they were legally insane or not” – thereby unknowingly revealing his bias. And the new gun law actually takes the definitions of being a “danger to self or others” straight out of the law that allows for commitment to a hospital if you are found to have a mental illness. But the new law does legally detach a mental diagnosis from identification of whether someone might be dangerous – at least for the question of taking away the right to have a gun. So that was what felt good. What does not change is the fact that we remain the only people who can be locked up based on those predictions of dangerousness. The new “dangerous people” category only means the person’s guns can be taken away. Most people would say that’s a really good thing that it is limited to gun rights. After all, we wouldn’t want to lock people up if they haven’t committed a crime, just because we think we have evidence that they might be dangerous in the future! Oops. We already do that. But only with a mental health diagnosis. Why the difference? We suppose people would say, “That’s because you can treat the mental illness and make the person less dangerous. Other dangerous people are just violent, and we can’t treat for that.” That exposes the contradiction of allowing people to be locked up because of a claim of illness. Society can force you to be held and drugged because it is supposed to help you be less dangerous. Since you can be helped, and plain old violent people can’t, you can have your right to freedom taken away. And while the new gun law doesn’t discriminate based on being labeled as mentally ill, it expands the idea that rights can be taken away just because people are afraid that you might do harm. That’s the scary thing about it. The path to equity should not be to take away the rights of more people – people beyond just us – based on predictions of future behavior. It means no one’s rights should be taken away when they haven’t committed a criminal act.


Opinions Publisher’s Commentary

In Pursuit of a Vision

By Wilda L. White

This column marks my last commentary as publisher of Counterpoint, a position I held by virtue of my position as executive director of Vermont Psychiatric Survivors. By the time this issue of Counterpoint reaches the newsstand, my resignation from VPS shall have become effective. I leave VPS with mixed emotions. When I assumed the position three years ago, I was still in recovery from a protracted, treatment-induced, psychotic manic episode that had gone unrecognized and untreated by my psychiatrist. I had been homeless for two years, was deeply in debt, my reputation was destroyed and my self-esteem was battered. People who used to return my call, now wouldn’t accept my call. Employers who had formerly pursued me for employment would not even send a rejection letter in response to my job application. They would simply not respond. Family members for whom I was always there, asked me not to call. Friends stopped inviting me to parties. VPS was the only prospective employer that thought I had something to offer, so I left San Francisco, my home of 10 years, and moved 3,000 miles across the country to Vermont, leaving behind my longtime partner and hoping against hope that she would eventually join me in Vermont. It was not an easy transition. I inherited an organization whose distress matched my own, financially, emotionally and spiritually. Employee morale was low, relationships were rocky, the budget was unbalanced and the organization’s reputation was in tatters. But I believed in the mission and potential of VPS, just as it believed in my vision and my potential. I am grateful to the board of directors for acknowledging that I leave VPS in much better shape than I found it. We’ve adopted a new logo under my leadership, overhauled our website, redesigned our newspaper, successfully advocated in the legislature for historic legislation, assumed a leadership position on a state commission and worked in coalition with diverse groups and organizations. We’ve invested heavily in staff training and have a strong, dedicated staff as a result. We’ve opened two beautiful offices in the state, have a sound balance sheet, a refined mission and a vision for the future. I’ve never been prouder of my work nor felt greater purpose. I did not accomplish everything I set out to do (and nothing I did, I did alone), and I do hope my successor picks up where I left off and completes the few projects left unfinished. Just as VPS is in a different place financially, emotionally and spiritually, I too have come a long way. Working at VPS allowed me to turn tragedy into transformation. My self-esteem has returned, and my reputation has recovered, at least in Vermont. While my finances are still shaky, my personal prosperity is boundless. My recovery and transformation would not have been possible had I not secured a job with purpose, been adopted by a community that believed in me, and been supported by people who had also experienced psychosis and the resulting societal marginalization and oppression. That is why I have been so disheartened by the legislature’s recent endorsement of a proposal by the Universirty of Vermont Health Network to build a new psychiatric wing at the Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin and its approval of $5.5 million in construction funds for renovations to create a temporary 12-bed, additional unit at the Brattleboro Retreat. Hospitals are expensive band-aids that offer little in the way of personal recovery and transformation. They also increase the risk of suicide and do not address the challenges that often land people in emotional and mental distress. During the most recent legislative session, VPS advocated for the creation of peer-run, community centers with adjoining, two-bed, peer respites in every Vermont county. The community centers would be a hub of activity from mutual support, body work, job counseling, computer training, continuing education, arts and crafts, leadership and advocacy training, etc. The potential is limitless. The adjoining peer-respites would provide an alternative to emergency departments and hospitals and help people find new understanding and ways to move forward. VPS put forward the idea as a result of our research that revealed that a large percentage of folks were showing up repeatedly in emergency departments because of homelessness and social isolation. Community centers constitute an investment in prevention and early intervention, which are essential if we wish to disrupt the revolving door between the street, emergency department and inpatient hospitalization. At the end of June, I will be in California representing myself in a trial against my former psychiatrist for medical malpractice. When I return to Vermont, I hope to work towards realizing my vision of peer-run community centers with adjoining peer respites in every Vermont county and spearheading a strong, peer advocacy community. In response to a question during my VPS job interview three years ago, I remember replying that I was looking for a job in a place that I love, doing work that I love, with people I love. Thank you, Vermont for being that place I love, with people I love, with work I love. And special thanks to my colleagues at VPS. I am so proud of you and so proud to have served you.




Letters More Investigative Reporting Needed on Mental Health This is a copy of a letter sent to the writer of an article in Seven Days, copied to Counterpoint, about the state’s plan to expand inpatient psychiatric beds through developing a forensic unit in a correctional facility. The article referenced quoted Wilda White regarding the need for support in the community instead. To the Editor: Thank you for your “local matters” article in the March 7 print issue of Seven Days, “Vermont’s Psychiatric Bed Crisis Befuddles Policymakers” (pp. 16-17). I agree much more with the view expressed in it of Wilda White, executive director of Vermont Psychiatric Survivors, than that of Vermont Human Services Secretary Al Gobeille featured in your piece. Keep at it, even seeking independence to further set up your own reporter’s agenda, including investigative reporting on matters of mental health care provided to or withheld from Vermonters that receive at best only low-profile reportage. You can bring in benchmarks of demographically stratified statistics on a national level such as via the Centers for Disease Control or the PTSD Center at the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center in White River Junction, plus those appearing in interviews on WCAX-TV. You can dig up narrative stories of how Vermonters who are psychiatric survivors and have never seen the inside of a jail cell or the barrel of a hypodermic syringe but have [seen

the inside] of a psych ward, have nonetheless moved on and contributed to the future of the social, economic, political and cultural life of all Vermonters and even of America itself. In that vein: There are a lot of myths out there on mental illness and the resulting impairment of and even disabling of cognitive and other function that need to be debunked. They need to be replaced by sound doctrine and policy so that they do not continue to falsely and destructively shift away the public debate in the Vermont General Assembly on pressing matters such as gun control and protection of our young. We cannot allow the debate to shift away from the gold standard of sound, sustainable solutions which respect the mentally ill patient or client or one with a history of mental illness or even one who simply is perceived as having such a history, as a human person with dignity and rights equal to those who have not had the misfortune of, say, major depression or general anxiety disorder or PTSD. These persons also have federal statutory protections under the Rehab Act of 1973 [Section 504], the ADA of 1990, the ADAAA of 2008 [that became effective in 2009], and the U.S. President’s Executive Order 13548 and 13583 [signed by Pres. Obama in 2010 and 2011, respectively]. Persons with a known diagnosis of mental illness are much more often the victim of perpetrators of abuse and violence, rather than the mythical, other way around that is so falsely promulgated today in the news media reporting

on the utterances of the demagogue and the uninformed. Via this myth, mental illness is being subtly criminalized in debates today over what to do now about so many secondary school and college shootings, killings and injuries of innocent victims in the United States in recent years. It is so hard for persons to deal first-hand with their own major depression, to seek healing and recovery of function and reintegration into the workplace (as I have had to), without also being ostracized as 21st-century lepers falsely accused by authorities of presenting a danger to society and thus needing to be sequestered from peers and colleagues, put into a police database, and stripped of any normal possibility of a helping hand. A convicted murderer or other felon can get a better, more equitable and just deal with mental health care services provided in prison while serving out a long sentence than the poor person with a clean rap sheet who has a panic attack but no one to help him or her, not even at the local hospital’s emergency room when coming in during a crisis. This is especially true in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont comprising the northeastern area of Caledonia, Essex and Orleans Counties. That’s not only unjust, it is morally uncompassionate and fiscally imprudent. HAL FROST, Ph.D. Hal Frost is a resident of the Northeast Kingdom and is a vested retiree of the University of California.

Used for Research, Without Consent Big Pharma Whitewash To the Editor: The thing that bothers me the most about the pharmaceutical industry whitewash/negligence is that who knows how many deaths (suicides) could have been prevented if anyone had stopped counting money long enough to sprout a conscience. This seems like a serious, en masse medical negligence scandal, and the fact that even now the FDA itself was forced to issue a box warning (if you’ll pardon the parallel, it is just like Trump’s Russian nesting doll of a campaign) – still, there is “no coverup.” Even 20 years later, really? Where’s the phony concern for “public good” (or is it only trotted out to lock people up)? CASEY WALSH Vergennes

To the Editor: After reading the Counterpoint Winter 2017 Edition article “Consent To Research Challenged,” I felt compelled to write. As a foster child I was a “ward of the state” in New York. As their “ward,” my rights as a person, human and child were taken from me and as a child, I never consented to any of this. I, or rather, my body was used for research purposes. I was always told that everything was in my head, I was nuts, plumb loco, but I know better. My medical records prior to age 18 were and still remain sealed by the highest courts. In my 30s I received a class action lawsuit letter that explained I was one of the subjects used and that the testing could contribute to Auto Immune Disease. (Which I have, but as to which Auto Immune Disease it is, remains a mystery, as getting physicians to give me a concrete diagnosis is impossible.) The only compensation would be that any future children used for research purposes would get an advocate assigned to them. I have spent my entire life trying to get answers around my ongoing, complex and never-ending health issues and became disabled because of them. The University of Vermont Medical Cen-

ter has tried to label me again as crazy, tried to destroy records, and has even tried to prevent me from being seen out of state and at other hospitals so as to get answers to my never-ending health issues. I learned this past year that I am still being used as a research subject, which may explain why and how the medical world continues to treat me, and that UVM is keeping what is known to be a “shadow chart” on me. Again, I have not consented to this and it was kept from me. I have requested copies of all information around this but so far am being denied it in the form of ignoring my requests. Outside of trying to deny me records, of trying to convince me and the world I am mentally ill and therefore not to be believed, they have gone to great lengths to prevent me from ever learning the truth around my health issues. I have Complex PTSD, (a life of abuse, trauma and more), Major Depressive Disorder, Major Panic Disorder and Dissociative Identity Disorder. My mental illness is because of what others have done to me, in which systems, government and the medical world have all played major roles. BONNIE L. BARROWS Bristol



Letters Planet Earth Is Everyone’s Responsibility To the Editor: I am deeply concerned about our environment. Every year we are witnessing devastating forest fires (like the ones demolishing California – perhaps the largest fire in California in modern history). Zillions of people had to be evacuated, losing their homes, belongings. My heart breaks for all of the animals on the planet, also losing their habitats. In the past 15 years or so we have endured Hurricane Irene (right here in our blessed state of Vermont), Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Harvey, the Tsunami in Thailand, earthquakes and flooding all over the planet. The past 10 years have been the hottest on record. Clearly, we are in the grips of mighty nature’s climate change. This has been caused, I believe, by mankind. The earth cannot sustain its great overpopulation. The oceans are engorged in plastic and garbage. The seas are being over-fished. Every day people and children go hungry. Every day many people are two pay checks away from losing their homes, their means to make a living. The earth is on life support, drawing its last breaths. Endangered species are dying at an alarming rate.

The butterflies, bees and birds are also all in danger. We have known about this for a long time. Yet what do the major corporations do? Make more bee- and butterfly-killing pesticides. Coal energy is not the answer. We need, ASAP, to find an alternative to oil energy. Nuclear energy is not the answer. Several years ago, we shocked ourselves by watching the nuclear blast in Fukushima [Prefecture], Japan. (Radioactive energy from that tragedy made it all the way to this country, infecting the seas and land.) The world is full of pollution. I am concerned about air quality, clean water, wanting clean energy alternatives. On a brighter side, Vermont is ahead of the game when it comes to solar energy. Clean energy is the way of the future, or else all of humanity is doomed to extinction. It is not fair or just that simply the “1 percent” rich and elite obtain clean food and water. “The meek shall inherit the earth,” as it says in the Bible. Right now, the planet is everyone’s responsibility. The earth needs you, the animals need you, the children and elders desperately need you. We need safe and affordable housing for all. Loneliness is an epidemic for people right now. Try reaching out to your community,

Need for a New Mayor To the Editor: Vermont advertises itself as an incomparable Shangri-La, but let me describe life in the village of Bennington on this February morning: The sidewalks are not well maintained. They are not plowed until early afternoon and then not adequately salted or sanded. It has been extremely icy this winter. There have been numerous letters in our newspaper opposing the installation of a mayor here, but we really do need one. Our town man-

Have an Issue to Discuss with Other Survivors?

your representatives and senators, your governor. Please let them know what is important to you. Our very lives and immediate future generations are counting on humanity acting now, not later. M.S. SIMPSON, M.A. Randolph

Are You One? Description of a Sexual Harasser He/she is:

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Aggressive Narcissistic Lacking in empathy A bully Socially insensitive Not law-abiding

Why do they do it?

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

To feel powerful To hurt and embarrass others Entertainment Poor impulse control “because they can” Lack of respect for others To impress their friends

What do they do?

ager has been in office for 25 years, and he seems very insensitive to the real needs of the people. In just one year, 20 families have lost their homes because they can’t afford to pay their property taxes. Storefronts are vacant all along Main Street, and the rents are sky high. What can be done? As the Serenity Prayer says, let me have “the courage to change the things I can.” RICHARD WILLIAMS Bennington

1. Talk about sex inappropriately 2. Act out sexually 3. Make sexual remarks about others to embarrass and demean them 4. Grope or touch others sexually 5. Commit other unwanted behaviors

Are you one? Examine your conscience! ELEANOR NEWTON Burlington

COUNTERPOINT IS THE PLACE FOR YOUR VOICE. SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS HERE! Send comments to: Counterpoint, The Service Building, 128 Merchants Row, Suite 606, Rutland, VT 05701, or to Names may be withheld on request but must be included with letter or commentary. Please identify your town. Letters or commentaries do not represent the opinion of the publisher and may be edited for length or content.




Do Not Let Stigma Define You By SARAH ROBINSON

support and services, not imprison people or worse. And we need to have t is deep in human history, perhaps clear negative consequences in our public schools for peer group bullying pre-coded in our DNA, for humans of those “not like us,” the “Others,” all too often those with mental illness. to define themselves in contrast to Not to mention we need more responsible parents who limit or elimiothers (the “Other”). The act of stigma- nate their children’s access to violent video games and social media. Facetizing “Others” is an expression of hier- to-face time at home and in school and in the world is needed now more archical thinking, and its roots can be than ever. found in the history of man, back into the We need a bit more humility in our era. We are not smarter than Paleolithic. our Paleolithic ancestors. The art and technological innovations of our That is to say, this is not new in the Neanderthal and Homo sapiens ancestors attest to this. modern era, and clearly predates civilizaHow many of us could survive in nature making our own stone, woodtions and colonization, and has its roots en, bone and shell tools, hunting and gathering, and working in well orgain tribal and clan-based cultures that nized groups to do so? have existed in various forms throughout Technology has removed most of us from that way of life (and more rehuman history. cently one could suggest removed us from ourselves and each other), but Throughout the millennia, we have our Paleolithic ancestors had no less intelligence than we have today. (4) tended to define our family and larger Not to mention we have Neanderthal DNA in us! We define ourselves against others, and even justify violence in the same family groups and organizations as not like the “Other.” There are those with whom we cooperate, intermarry, participate in emotional reaction to blind fear. Who are we? We are someone’s “Other”! Can we change hearts and minds? Yes! Begin with ourselves. Begin shared rituals and engage in trade. And there are those we fear, those to with compassion. Embrace community. whom we collectively and individually feel supeI personally have experienced mental health rior, and those we look up to as role models – faThe essence of stigma stigma all my life. And to this day I struggle with mous, powerful, rich, gifted or inspiring leaders. the internalized, culturally conditioned selfA hierarchy is formed in this process within is to blame the victim blame and shame for my mental illness. I conwhich we identify ourselves and our collective in tinue to struggle with this self-shame and guilt. a ranked continuum from the lowest to the highI have found that it helps me to think of who I am – not someone who is est. Stigma looks down, not up, this continuum. It is fashionable in our violent world today to refer to abhorrent violence (physical, emotional, so- mentally ill, but someone who has a mental illness. I do not define who I am by my illness, loss or injury but instead strive cial, etc.) and to blame it on the mentally ill unreflectively, and (more out to recognize that this is stigma and not who I am. I strive to identify with of emotional fear) to label the perpetrator as mentally ill. Yet the impact of this in our press and public discourse is to magnify the my strengths and heart and what I can give to the world and share to fear and stigma of mental illness in our society. Thinking of the “Other” as make my life meaningful. less than us, or not like us, is not done with thought but with reflex. Sarah Robinson is a native Vermonter currently living in Winooski. We need to address stigma with compassion, kindness and listening, in She is a anthropologist, writer, artist and gardener. She is a social-culface-to-face conversations. The essence of stigma is to blame the victim, and it is deeply imbedded tural historian and thoughtful and active in her own way about mental in mankind or, as Louis Dumont characterizes us, “Homo Hierarchicus.” (1) health rights and advocacy. The worst part of its impact is to cause the victim of stigma to blame Footnotes: themselves. This is very obvious in the case of those with mental illness. It 1 Louis Dumont, “Homo Hierarchicus: The Caste System and its Implications,” The Complete Revised results in self-blame and shame, which is more often than not an unconEnglish Edition, University of Chicago Press, 1970. Dumont concerning links social class in the West scious reaction within the victim. with Hindu caste in Southeast Asia. We are all tribal and have the “instinct” to form family groups, tribes 2 See Dorothea Lynde Dix, a 19th-century social justice activist for the mentally ill https://www.biography. and clans in various forms, even in modern civilizations and a globalized com/people/dorothea-dix-9275710; Michel Foucault, “The Birth of the Clinic: The Archaeology of Medworld. In our democratic individualism, we often define ourselves against ical Perception,” 1976 Tavistock Publications. We could also include the eugenics era in the 20th century the “Others” with stigma, but in so doing we also identify ourselves with that systematically sterilized the mentally ill. those who think and look and act like ourselves. 3 Ann Epidemiol, “Mental illness and reaction to gun violence and suicide: bringing epidemiology reWhen it comes to stigma against the mentally ill, the victim is stigmatized search to policy,” US National Institute of Health, 2015: because the perpetrators fear being seen like them and also scapegoated PMC4211925/. as they are in the act of doing to the “Other.” With strong emotion, the 4 For the last century, archaeologists have drawn a line between the emergence of modern man (us) with perpetrators act on this primordial instinct that is so antithetical to basic Homo sapiens ca. 30,000 BCE, the upsocial morals of compassion, per Paleolithic, and Neanderthal of the kindness, listening and empamiddle and lower Paleolithic 90,000 to thy. 30,000 BCE. The discovery of NeanderWhen an act of violence is thal DNA in us recently and new archaelabeled as the danger that the ological evidence changes this with the mentally ill are assumed to imdicovery of Neanderthal cave paintings pose on society (unreflectively, in southern Spain ca.60,000 BCE, as well we should note), it simply feeds as the domestication of canids (wolves) our fear not only of violence ca. 30-40,000 BCE. Animal domesticabut of mental illness. There is tion has been considered post “stone age” a tragic and long history of the or Paleolithic, and painting has been contreatment of the mentally ill. (2) sidered the hallmark of the emergence Today it is less than three of our current species of man. These percent (3) of those with mental new discoveries are rapidly changing illness who are dangerously our genealogical “ideology” of who we violent towards others. We do are. See Anita Quiles “A high-precision not help anyone by being mechronological model of the decorated dieval once again about this Upper Pale lithic cave of Chauvet-Pont illness. d’Arc, Ardèche, France,” Michael GresYet we continue to fan the hko in National Geographic February flames of fear and blind stigma 12, 2018, and Tim Flannery “The First when we unthinkingly use this Domestication,” New York Review of label with every horrific mass Books April 5, 2018, pages 16-20. shooting. Furthermore, we need to improve mental health




I’m the Person You’re Targeting By KAT STEPHANIS


’m ready to talk about Parkland today. And what I have to say now is this: If you look at events like that, look at an angry man with a history of violence and bigotry, just like all the other angry men with histories of violence and bigotry. If you look at all those murderers and you think the problem is mental health? Then you’re telling me that’s what you think I am. I am profoundly mentally ill. It is a regular thing for me to have suicidal episodes. (Never

plans. I’m never in danger. It just sucks.) I regularly have panic attacks, dissociate, become irrationally angry. ... I’m not a well person. I cannot even fathom hurting someone on purpose. I can’t begin to understand the level of hate and moral bankruptcy that such actions require. But you people calling it a mental health problem? I’m the person who scares you. I’m the one you’re targeting. Not the people who abused me, used me for their own amusement. Not the people who ter-

rify me with their cold disregard for human life. Because they’re “normal.” They can hide in plain sight. They pass in society. So you ignore them, and instead target their victims. The mentally ill are not your enemy, though you are ours. The mentally ill take everything the “well” throw at us, barely thinking we could deserve otherwise. And the hateful men who think the world owes them their every desire keep killing. Kat Stephanis is from Marietta, Pennsylvania.

A Journey To Acceptance By MATTI SALMINEN


long time ago, I lost my mind and began to work toward inventing a martial art. This was a short time after losing my job teaching skiing. Leaving the sport of skiing, I looked to self-education to build a new life. With the intention to invent a martial art and be self-educated, I thought to begin work on creating a martial art by getting the right educational background. I studied military science and martial arts philosophy. For the next several years, beyond studying to invent a martial art, I would read widely. And I would practice writing calligraphy and poetry. In addition to my studies, I worked toward a training goal of doing push-ups on one finger tip. It was a time of emotional exile. And in this self-imposed isolation, I went deep into an alternate consciousness. It was not a result of self-imposed isolation that I lost my mind; it was not without losing my mind that I chose a solitary path. The two were simultaneous. I lost my mind, and set out to invent a martial art. I worked hard in the first years that I acquired the knowledge to invent a martial art. These were not years lost because I am now making ground to realize my dream. When I lost my mind in 2002, I began to believe that I had been undefeated in 15 wars and 67 battles. I was the first man in history to knock out a yokozuna. And I led a small band of rebels to nearly overthrowing the Vermont government. It was these successes in battle that I

thought myself to have the experience necessary to invent a martial art. This period, in which I was immersed in an alternate consciousness, lasted 10 years, uninterrupted. The first four years of this period were a time of isolation; the six years that followed saw that I spent nearly five years in group homes, jails and psychiatric hospitals. In the years of navigating the mental health and criminal justice systems, I gave up on inventing a martial art. It would, however, regain my attention. In the spring of 2012, I realized that the memories which I had of being a great warrior were of an alternate consciousness. After first differentiating between my alternate and primary consciousness, I almost immediately took to writing. And in writing, I found the means to recreate the person I am now; I began doing mental health advocacy. I started off blogging and would soon speak at the State House; months after speaking at the State House, I would get a job in peer support. These years saw that I reinvigorate the work I was doing towards having a background in self-education. I set out to be self-educated, again, and found reason to get back into developing a martial art, again. At first, I was going to recreate an almost forgotten warrior philosophy to serve as the underpinnings of my creative process as a writer. But I expanded off that to develop points and rules for a unique fighting system. It is a system where you can use punches, kicks or blocks but also win or lose by pin fall. Even after developing the points and rules for this fighting system, I was still more focused on writing. It came about that I would have to shelve writing for over six months (because I wasn’t writing well at all). It was in this time that I began taking karate. It was in taking karate that my

interest in inventing a martial art was strengthened to overcome any last doubts I had. It would come about that I would ask for feedback on my fighting system from a soldier at Fort Lee, in Virginia. He and other martial artists at Fort Lee were the first people to try the martial art, and they all thought it worked well. Since this time, my martial art has had publicity in Fifth Estate. And I will still be working on developing curriculum for this system for years to come. I do not want to overemphasize sparring in this system. And I want to be able to teach martial arts to those who are not necessarily interested in fighting. Inventing a martial art has been the most emotionally destructive of all my educational projects. This is because violence is contingent with society. There has been something to accepting that I am to be peaceful because there is violence in the world. I had to go to a really dark place to reveal the light which could guide me to this acceptance. And in this I am finding that there is another lifelong journey ahead of me. I can live in a violent world and be able to inflict violence myself and still have the intelligence to be peaceful; many battles have strengthened that wisdom in me. Having that wisdom in my soul and consciousness will strengthen the hold I have on my martial arts goals. If I cannot take anything from my struggles, but that I didn’t give up on this project of inventing a martial art – that itself has given me reason to keep fighting. Not giving up on inventing a martial art has helped me in the understanding that madness has intelligence and purpose to it. This is mad pride. Matti Salminen is from Brattleboro and an organizer of the annual Mad Pride march and rally.




The Trouble with the Gun Debate By JOHN LEPAGE


own a hunting rifle. This purchase years ago required no background check or license to acquire. It’s a real typical hunting rifle, meaning it’s not an assault weapon, or even a semi-automatic firearm. The question I ask is, just why does a hunter with any sense of hunting ethics need anything more in the way of firepower? “Spraying lead” is not hunting. Most hunting seasons come and go not seeing me out in the woods in search of quality meat from a game animal. Every year I pay for my license just in case I have an opportunity to get out there. I can’t figure it out: I’m on a fixed income (SSI/SSD), and I struggle to make ends meet. So many things that others pay for I have to learn to do myself ... sometimes without the best out-

come possible. I don’t know how others find the time to hunt or “relax” (whatever that is!) or “vacation.” The trouble with the gun debate is when it starts getting tied to mental illness. I live with mental illness, and I’m as nonviolent as they come. In fact, witnessing or even hearing about violence has the effect of creating a palpable sense of being physically sick, stressed and weak. The problem of violence has much deeper roots. To say that we have a “firearms crisis” is so horribly short-sighted. We are in the midst of a “crises crisis,” and it only gets worse when we throw Band-Aids at our symptoms instead of addressing the core of the problems that beset us. We live in a culture of “blame-putting” – which makes it too easy to see the problems as someone else’s responsibility or fault. Until such time as we have the courage and fortitude to confront our myriad problematic issues as if they were everyone’s responsibility, we will continue to mask the problem itself as we wrangle with merely the symptoms. I am a Ward 3 Councilor here in Barre City, and as I talk to people they paint a picture that

I’ve held for some time: they don’t view government as being “on their side” at all. They see it more that government is the hungry monster-enemy, making their life increasingly difficult and expensive. With such a broad sense of dissatisfaction and anger from the general public, who would ever suppose that people are apt to come together to work things out? Instead many people seek to “even the score” in the face of what they experience as tyranny. This plays out in many forms – from petty theft all the way to something as extreme as murder. The reality is that awareness of the roots of current social ills is not presently as widespread as is needed to bring about necessary understanding and substantial change. This, I know, is a depressing-sounding assessment ... like anyone needs anything more to be depressed over? I still struggle to cling tough to my inclination to be an optimist. The world has indeed seen improvement over some very serious problems in the past, and it’s good to believe we still will see positive changes. John LePage is a member of the City Council in Barre.

One Proposal, Many Prisons By KATE DEWOLFE


or e C i v i c , a for-profit private corporation, is seeking to build a 925-bed prison and psychiatric campus. Currently, this proposal does not have much traction, and will probably not be passed. I know a lot of liberal and leftist Vermonters have been outraged by this plan for many reasons. I think that many of us do not take kindly to private corporations that pocket taxpayer dollars while profiting off of systemic oppression. I’m not writing this piece to delve deep into the problems with the private prison industrial complex (of which there are many). Or to explain why Vermonters should be outraged by this proposal (which they should). I’m writing to specifically call attention to the different types of imprisonment that are folded into this proposal, and hopefully try to unite in solidarity a couple of different social justice movements that have previously been at odds with each other. I am writing as a psychiatric survivor, having had experience within psychiatric hospitals both as a patient and as a patient advocate. I take a

very strong stance against forced treatment and involuntary commitment. The best treatment outcomes for patients happen when mental health services are accessed on a voluntary basis, when patients have self-determination and have informed consent of every aspect of their treatment. Being held involuntarily – being coerced or forced into taking medications and being forcibly injected with psych drugs – is traumatizing and torturous. Within the movement to end forced psychiatric treatment, I have often heard activists and advocates bemoaning that people are being held against their will and force-drugged even though they have often never committed a crime. The forces of sanist discrimination deem some people to be likely to commit violence, and court orders are issued for their commitment and involuntary medication. This happens despite the fact that psychiatry has never been able to reliably predict who will act violently and who will not. I have heard our community argue (and have argued myself) that until a crime has been committed, every person should remain free from confinement despite their psychiatric diagnoses. What I don’t often hear from this community against psychiatric imprisonment is a call to end imprisonment of all kinds. I know very few activists within this community who are working in solidarity with the prison abolition movement. I would like to see our community acknowledge the systemic racism and prevalence of prisoner abuses inherent to the prison system. I would like our movement to acknowledge that imprisonment of any kind is traumatic and cre-

ates more problems than it attempts to solve. I think it is time for unity and coalition. It is time for both of our communities to recognize the oppression and injustice within both the psychiatric system and the prison system. Likewise, those in the prison reform and prison abolition communities seem to very infrequently call out the injustice of forced psychiatric treatment. I have heard their advocates arguing that prisoners in distress need more psychiatric care. There seems to be a liberal notion that the majority of prisoners have mental disorders that are going left untreated. The distinction is not always made as to whether those prisoners are seeking psychiatric care on a voluntary basis or whether they are being presumed to need psychiatric imprisonment and forced treatment. I want to call attention to the fact, just as this campus proposal makes clear, that imprisonment for any reason is still imprisonment. Though the CoreCivic proposal is likely a nonstarter, the state is probably going to be building a secure residential facility and forensic psychiatric unit. I would love to see people within the prison reform and prison abolition movements join us in fighting the expansion of psychiatric imprisonment and involuntary treatment. Our communities have more in common than we often realize. We should be working in solidarity with each other and not throwing each other under the bus. Kate DeWolfe is a Mad Pride and Neurodiversity activist from Brattleboro.

24 Resources Directory SURVIVOR PEER SERVICES Vermont Psychiatric Survivors Peer Support Groups BRATTLEBORO: Changing Tides, Brattleboro Mem.

Hosp, 17 Belmont Ave., Brattleboro; every Wednesday, 7-8:30 p.m. Call John at 802-258-0782 BENNINGTON/UCS: United Counseling Service, 316 Dewey St., Bennington; Mondays and Wednesdays, noon-1 p.m. Call Barbara at 802-442-5491 NORTHWESTERN: St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, 11 Church Street, St. Albans; 1st and 3rd Tues, 4:306:30 p.m. Contact Jonathan at RUTLAND: Wellness Group, VPS Office, 128 Merchants Row, Suite 606; every Wednesday, 5-7 p.m. Call Beth at 802-353-4365 SPRINGFIELD: First Congregational Church, 77 Main St., every Thursday from 2-3:30 p.m. Call Diana at 802-2891982

VPS is a membership organization providing peer support, outreach, advocacy and education 128 Merchants Row, Suite 606, Rutland, VT 05701 802-775-6834 Peer Support WARM LINES


833-888-2557; every day, 3 p.m.- 6 a.m. [833 - VT-TALKS]

PEER ACCESS CONNECTIONS: 802.662.1280 Friday, Saturday and Sunday 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.;


Counterpoint publishes this resource list to allow readers to seek out choices for support. Counterpoint has not reviewed or evaluated the quality or biases of these resources, and makes no representation about their value for any individual. Vermont Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health Statewide support for families of children, youth or young adults in transition who are experiencing or at risk to experience emotional, behavioral or mental health challenges. 800-639-6071, 802-876-7021

1-800-273-TALK (8255) 24/7 confidential support

Women’s Holistic Outreach Learning Environment

Public Community Mental Health

(W.H.O.L.E.) peer support groups in Springfield for “women who struggle with mental, emotional, and behavioral health issues.” Tuesdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Calvary Baptist Church, 156 Main St. Entrance at back on right side of building. More info at

Pride Center of Vermont

LGBTQ Individuals with Disabilities Social and Support Groups: Connections and support around coming out, socializing, employment challenges, safe sex, self-advocacy, and anything else! Burlington, Wednesdays, 4:30 p.m. at Pride Center, 255 S. Champlain St.

Brain Injury Association

Support Group locations on web:; or email:; Toll Free Line: 877-856-1772

DBT Peer Group


Peer-run skills group. Sundays, 4 p.m.; 1 Mineral St, Springfield (The Whitcomb Building).


Trans Crisis Hotline

802-229-8015; 7 days/wk, 6-11 p.m.

THE HIVE: 802-43-BUZZ-3 (802-432-8993)


Alyssum, 802-767-6000;;




The Trans Lifeline (dedicated to the trans population) can be reached at 1-877-565-8860.

Crisis Text Line

Around-the-clock help via text: 741741 for a reply explaining the ground rules; message routed to a trained counselor.

LGBTQ Youth Crisis Hotline:

The Trevor Lifeline now at 866-488-7386. TrevorText Available on Fridays (4-8 p.m.). Text the word “Trevor” to 1-202-304-1200. Standard text messaging rates.

NAMI Connections Support Groups


Middlebury, 05753; 802-388-6751


PO Box 588, Ledge Hill Dr., Bennington, 05201; 802-4425491

CHITTENDEN COUNTY: HOWARD CENTER, 300 Flynn Ave., Burlington, 05401; 802-488-6200



Street, Morrisville, 05661; 802-888-5026


Road, Derby; 802-334-6744; 800-696-4979, 2225 Portland St., St. Johnsbury; 802-748-3181; 800-649-0118


Randolph, 05060-0167; 802-728-4466

RUTLAND MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES, 78 So. Main St., Rutland, 05701; 802-775-2381


St., Montpelier, 05601; 802-229-6328


390 River Street, Springfield, 05156; 886-4500; 51 Fairview St., Brattleboro, 05301, 802-254-6028; 49 School St., Hartford, 05047, 802-295-3031

24-Hour Crisis Lines: Involuntary Custody Screening

ADDISON COUNTY: Counseling Services of Addison County 802-388-7641

BENNINGTON COUNTY: United Counseling Service, 802-

Soteria House, information and online application at or call Pathways Vermont Intake Line, 888-492-8212, ext. 140

BENNINGTON: Every Tuesday 12-1:30 pm; United Counseling Service, 316 Dewey Street, CRT Center

442-5491; (Manchester) 802-362-3950

BURLINGTON: Every Thursday 3-4:30 pm; St. Paul’s Epis-

6400; First Call: (child/adolescents) 802-488-7777

Peer Centers & Employment Support

MONTPELIER: Every Friday 2-3:30 pm; Another Way,

ANOTHER WAY, 125 Barre St, Montpelier, 802-229-

0920;; www.anotherwayvt. org; see website for events calendar. PATHWAYS VERMONT COMMUNITY CENTER, 279 North Winooski Avenue, Burlington, 888-492-8218 ext 300;;

Vermont Recovery Centers WWW.VTRECOVERYNETWORK.ORG BARRE, Turning Point Center of Central Vermont, 489 N. Main St.; 479-7373;

BENNINGTON, Turning Point Center, 465 Main St; 802442-9700; BRATTLEBORO, Turning Point Center of Windham County, 39 Elm St.; 802-257-5600;

BURLINGTON, Turning Point Center of Chittenden

County, 191 Bank St, 2nd floor; 802-861-3150; GaryD@ or

MIDDLEBURY, Turning Point Center of Addison County, 228 Maple St, Space 31B; 802-388-4249; tcacvt@ MORRISVILLE, North Central Vermont Recovery Center, 275 Brooklyn St., 802-851-8120;

RUTLAND, Turning Point Center, 141 State St; 802-7736010

SPRINGFIELD, Turning Point Recovery Center of Springfield, 7 Morgan St., 802-885-4668; spfldturningpoint@

ST. ALBANS, Turning Point of Franklin County, 182 Lake

St; 802-782-8454;

ST. JOHNSBURY, Kingdom Recovery Center, 297 Sum-

mer St; 802-751-8520;; j.keough@;

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Upper Valley Turning Point, 200 Olcott Dr; 802-295-5206;;

copal Cathedral, 2 Cherry Street (enter from parking lot) 125 Barre St.

CHITTENDEN COUNTY: Howard Center (adults) 802-488FRANKLIN AND GRAND ISLE COUNTIES: Northwestern Coun-

seling and Support Services, 802-524-6554; 800-834-7793

LAMOILLE COUNTY: Lamoille County Mental Health, Week-

NEWPORT: Every Wednesday 6-7:30 pm; St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 44 Second St.

days 8 a.m.-4 p.m. 802-888-4914; Nights and weekends 802-888-4231

RUTLAND: Every Sunday 4:30-6 pm; Wellness Center (Rutland Mental Health) 78 South Main St. (enter from Engrem St.)

Human Services 800-696-4979

ST. JOHNSBURY: Thursdays 6:30-8 pm; Universalist Unitarian Church, 47 Cherry St.


802-876-7949 x101, 600 Blair Park Road, Suite 301, Williston, VT 05495;;

ESSEX, CALEDONIA AND ORLEANS: Northeast Kingdom ORANGE COUNTY: Clara Martin, 800-639-6360 RUTLAND: Mental Health Services, 802-775-1000 WASHINGTON COUNTY: Mental Health Services, 802-229-0591 WINDHAM,WINDSOR COUNTIES: Health Care and Rehabili-

tation Services, 800-622-4235

Please contact us if your organization’s information changes: Veterans’ Services

Vermont Veterans Outreach


BENNINGTON AREA: 802-442-2980; cell: 802-310-5391 BERLIN AREA: 802-224-7108; cell: 802-399-6135 BRADFORD AREA: 802-222-4824; cell: 802-734-2282 COLCHESTER AREA: 802-338-3078; cell: 802-310-5743 ENOSBURG AREA: 802-933-2166; cell: 802-399-6068 JERICHO AREA: 802-899-5291; cell: 802-310-0631 NEWPORT AREA: 802-338-4162; cell: 802-399-6250 RUTLAND AREA: 802-775-0195; cell: 802-310-5334 VERGENNES AREA: 802-877-2356; cell: 802-881-6680 WHITE RIVER AREA: 802-295-7921; cell: 802-881-6232 WILLISTON AREA: 802-879-1385; cell: 802-734-2123 OUTREACH TEAM LEADER: 802-338-3022; cell: 802-881-5057 TOLL-FREE HOTLINE (24/7) 1-888-607-8773

HOMELESS PROGRAM COORDINATOR: 802-742-3291 BRATTLEBORO: Morningside 802-257-0066 RUTLAND: Open Door Mission 802-775-5661; Transitional Residence: Dodge House, 802-775-6772

BURLINGTON: Waystation/Wilson 802-864-7402 FREE TRANSPORTATION: Disabled American Veterans:

Toll Free: 1-866-687-8387 X5394


Vermont Veterans Services (VVS) program for homeless veterans with very low income, call 802-656-3232. Web site sponsored by The Department of Veterans Affairs with testimonials by veterans to help connect with the experiences of other veterans, and with information and resources to help transition from service, face health issues, or navigate daily life as a civilian.

VA Mental Health Services

VA HOSPITAL: Toll Free 1-866-687-8387 MENTAL HEALTH CLINIC: Toll Free 1-866-687-8387 Ext 6132 OUTPATIENT CLINICS: Bennington: 802-447-6913; Brattleboro: 802-251-2200; Burlington Lakeside Clinic: 802-6577000; Newport: 802-334-9777; Rutland: 802-772-2300 VET CENTERS: (Burlington) 802-862-1806; (White River Jnct) 802-295-2908

Vermont Vet-to-Vet peer support groups: contact

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