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Addiction treatment facility says beds set aside for youths going unused



Valley News Staff Writer
Sunday, July 21, 2019

BRADFORD, Vt. — An Upper Valley provider of residential addiction treatment is seeking to convert beds currently licensed for older teens and young men to beds for adult men.

In an application pending before the Green Mountain Care Board, Valley Vista is requesting approval to add the 14 beds that have been dedicated since last year to older teens and young men to its tally of beds for adult men because demand for the younger cohort has been low.

“...We have 14 beds that are not being utilized at this time when there is a need for these beds for adults,” Valley Vista Treatment Director Amanda Hudak said in an April letter to the board.

Valley Vista Bradford is licensed by the state for a total of 80 beds, 14 for males ages 16 to 22, 44 for adult men and 22 for adult women.

Hudak, in the letter, did not describe the length of the waitlist Valley Vista has for beds for adult men.

A spokesman for Valley Vista, which is owned by the New Brighton, Minn.-based Meridian Behavioral Health, declined to comment for this story.

Waitlists are maintained by the individual providers, said Megan Mitchell, clinical services director for the Vermont Department of Health Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs.

But, Mitchell said, demand for residential treatment for adolescent patients has been trending downward in Vermont and nationally because sending young people away for treatment is not considered a best practice.

The “more you can serve kids and families as a unit in their communities the better off that youth is going to be,” she said.

The switch from adolescent to adult beds can be accomplished without making changes to the facility or staffing levels, so it will not carry a price tag, according to Hudak’s April letter.

In addition to the 80 beds in the facility off Route 5 in Bradford, Valley Vista also operates 19-bed facility for women in Vergennes, Vt. Valley Vista’s residential programs help to manage patients’ withdrawal symptoms and help patients to develop a plan of care after discharge, according to the GMCB application filed in late May. Staff members include therapists, recovery coaches and a psychiatrist.

Such residential programs, which are covered by some insurances including Vermont Medicaid, offer support for patients in need of inpatient care, but who do not need the level of care provided in a hospital.

According to the application, Valley Vista expects to see an increase in Medicaid and a decrease in commercial and self-pay as a result of converting the beds from young adult to adult.

“However, no decrease in revenue is expected,” the application said.

The 14 beds for older teens and young adult males were opened to patients last October.

They replaced an adolescent treatment program that had closed due to low utilization, Valley Vista said in November.

In that news release, Nicole Mitchell, a licensed drug and alcohol counselor employed at Valley Vista, said, “We’re excited to be in a position to be able to offer this much needed program.”

Because Valley Vista declined comment, it was unclear why the program for younger males did not see the demand officials had expected it would.

Though if the GMCB approves Valley Vista’s request, there will not be any residential addiction treatment beds for people under the age of 18 in Vermont, young people can request permission from the Vermont Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living Division of Licensing and Protection to receive treatment at Valley Vista, said Pamela Cota, the division’s licensing chief.

In a June letter to Valley Vista, the GMCB requested additional information, including reasons why Valley Vista expects no change in revenue although it expects a different payer mix as a result of the bed conversion, as well as additional information about how the change for the 14 beds will affect admissions.

Mitchell said the state wants the beds to be available to whoever may need them.

“We have discussed with Valley Vista that, from a public health perspective, when there is treatment capacity that is not being utilized and there is an identified need, we would support providers exploring options to meet that need,” said Mitchell, the director of the Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs, in an email.

A lawsuit remains pending against the state and Valley Vista as the result of a case in which an escaped resident of Valley Vista in Bradford, Everett Simpson, is alleged to have kidnapped a 23-year-old New Hampshire woman and her son in Manchester, and then raping the woman at a hotel in White River Junction last January.

Valley News Staff Writer Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.