Letters to the Editor | Letters to the Editor | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Published January 15, 2014 at 5:09 a.m.

Bettering Brattleboro

I read [“Can ‘Niches in Inpatient Psychiatry’ Redeem the Brattleboro Retreat?” December 18] with interest, for I finished up an eight-year term on the board of trustees in 2012. In fact, I was involved when the organization decided to expand the specialty service offerings as well as to open its doors to the state hospital patients after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Your readers would be interested to know the Retreat began offering specialty programming long before Tropical Storm Irene. Its LGBT and uniformed-service programs started in 2009 and were in no way designed to “redeem” the hospital, as suggested in the article’s title.

Those expansion decisions were made in response to the changing nature of providing mental health services, and in recognition that 1. with health-care reform coming, the old way of providing services would need to be changed, and 2. the financial need to innovate. At the time, the Retreat was under severe financial duress and, simply put, such problems can be met basically in one of two ways: Increase revenues with growth or cut costs. Thankfully, the Retreat chose the former path, and, while it has not been without its pitfalls and challenges, the results have justified the decision. The Retreat is now a healthy organization serving more patients and employing more health care professionals than ever before.

Your article also discusses challenges the Retreat has faced in 2013 with respect to deficiencies as cited by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. While I’m not privy to what occurred, I am aware that the hospital ultimately received a clean bill of health from the federal government — a fact that the article failed to mention.

Until Tropical Storm Irene forced the closing of the state hospital in Waterbury, the Brattleboro Retreat’s patient mix was largely voluntary. The decision to accept involuntary patients who were suddenly made homeless by a natural disaster showed a willingness to restructure a portion of its long-standing care model. The Retreat came through as a better hospital and accomplished what the decertified state hospital had been unable to do in the previous decade. ??

As both an outsider and a non-health care professional, I was continually amazed at the ability of the Retreat’s staff to meet the dizzying array of federal and state regulations, regulations that at some times appeared to be in conflict with each other. A hospital the size of the Retreat is an incredibly complex organization; adding to it a patient mix with the challenges of the state hospital patients basically overnight and expecting it to respond “perfectly” is naïve thinking, at best.

In my mind, the Retreat and its staff’s ability to continue to serve ever more patients, patients who have more complicated illnesses, under an ever increasing and conflicted regulatory burden with the skills that they do, is the real story to be told!

Peter Sherlock


Honoring Andy Williams

Thank you for your coverage of Andy “A-Dog” Williams [“His Beat Goes On,” January 8]. I want to honor him by donating some money to a cause he would appreciate. What would that be?

Patty Heather-Lea


Seven Days reached out to Williams’ girlfriend, Josie Furchgott Sourdiffe, and her mom responded below:

Andy became a spokesperson and firm supporter for two linked organizations that raise awareness and promote donor drives for the bone marrow bank: Be the Match (bethematch.org) and Mixed Marrow (mixedmarrow.org). Monetary contributions are definitely appreciated, but perhaps even more important is signing up to be in the bone-marrow registry. It’s free, simple and painless — and it could save a life. They also encourage cord blood donations, which is another major breakthrough for people of mixed race like Andy who may not find a living donor who is a match. Eventually Friends for A-Dog, which is currently being set up as a nonprofit, will be channeling funds to these organizations as well as raising awareness on this issue. It would be an amazing legacy to honor Andy.

Joan Furchgott



In last week’s story “In Honor of Elvis: South Burlington ‘King’ Leads a Parallel Life,” we implied that Rosanne Greco was no longer on the South Burlington City Council. She is, but was not reelected as chair. Our apologies for the error.

In last week’s Fair Game column, Paul Heintz erroneously reported that former House majority leader Lucy Leriche “resigned her seat in June 2012 to take a job with Green Mountain Power.” In fact, while Leriche announced in May 2012 that she would not seek reelection, she served out the remainder of her term. In June, she was hired by Green Mountain Power.


Seven Days is looking for Vermonters willing to share their stories about long-term unemployment. Have you been looking for a job for months, with no luck? Are you making plans to get ahead — or barely making ends meet? If you’re willing to speak with a reporter, please send a brief summary of your experience to kathryn@sevendaysvt.com.