Improvements Made in Transporting Children to Emergency Psychiatric Evaluation; Other Departments in the Agency Will Follow Suit

For Immediate Release: August 30, 2005

Contact: Communication Office

WATERBURY, VT - State officials today announced they will institute major changes to improve the way children with severe mental illness are transported to Retreat Healthcare in Brattleboro for emergency psychiatric evaluation.

“We’re designing alternatives for transporting children that are more child- and parent-friendly,” said Michael K. Smith, Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Human Services.

When the new changes are implemented, restraints and law enforcement vehicles will only be used if they are required to safely transport a child to the hospital. Routine use of sheriff or police cars and metal restraints will be discontinued. In addition, parents or guardians will be encouraged to accompany their child to the hospital whenever medically appropriate.

The practice has been that all patients ordered for inpatient psychiatric evaluation, including children, were transported in restraints by law enforcement personnel.

The Agency of Human Services is contracting with private transport agencies to transport children for emergency psychiatric evaluation at Retreat Healthcare. The first agreements will be established in Rutland and Chittenden counties as they have the greatest number of children transported. Retreat Healthcare is the only hospital in Vermont with inpatient psychiatric treatment for children.

Smith said: “I am 100% committed to making sure that standard practice puts the best interests of our children first. If a child can safely be brought to Retreat Healthcare via a means of transport other than a law enforcement vehicle, we will use another means of transport.”

“This is just a start, with children in need of emergency mental health evaluations being our first priority,” Smith said. “Once we have the system up and running for these kids, we’ll expand this policy to all children in the care of the Agency of Human Services, including the Department for Children and Families, as well as adults who are being transported for mental health reasons.”

The Agency of Human Services will work with the Children’s Mental Health Standing Committee as well as other advocates to review policy changes and implementation.