by Alicia Freese March 21, 2013 vtdigger.org The Vermont House of Representatives gave preliminary approval Thursday to a multi-part bill that seeks to tackle opioid and methamphetamine abuse in Vermont. The vote was 137-1.The bill addresses a host of issues, ranging from monitoring the sales of allergy medicines that can be used to manufacture meth to stepping up doctors’ usage of the Vermont Prescription Monitoring System (VPMS).Several lawmakers lamented the absence of a provision that would expand law enforcement’ s access to the Vermont Prescription Monitoring System ‘ a point that derailed similar legislation last session.Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, said, ‘ I think you have left at least one arrow of your quiver as you aim at this problem.’In response to the concern raised by Browning and others, Rep. William Lippert, D-Hinesburg announced to the House chamber that the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, Keith Flynn, is not asking for expanded access to the database.‘ At this time, he is not requesting direct law enforcement access to the Vermont Prescription Monitoring System,’ Lippert said. ‘ He wants to give the increased strengthening of VPMS time to be implemented.’Many lawmakers attested to the ravages of drug abuse on their communities and commended the bill because it addresses the issue.‘ This is an issue that I think it’ s fair to say touches each one of us,’ Rep. Ann Pugh, D- South Burlington, said. Pugh, as chair of the Human Services Committee, played a large part during the drafting of the bill.
National Life Group,In its 165 years, National Life Group has insured everyone from celebrities to working people, including passengers on the Titanic and the Hindenburg and victims of the great influenza epidemic of 1918-19.Since the National Life Insurance Company was chartered by the Vermont Legislature on Nov. 13, 1848, the company has been involved in the great events of the day.‘In many ways, National Life’s history has followed US history,’ said Brian Lindner, National Life Group’s corporate historian. ‘When young men rushed to California to make their fortunes in the Gold Rush, quite a few carried a National Life policy in their back pocket. When the United States sent soldiers into battle in the Civil War and the World Wars, National Life provided the peace of mind for their families back on the home front.’After a period of organization, National Life began selling policies in 1850 and it was just a matter of months before it faced its first claim. Rowland Allen of Ferrisburgh, Vt., was one of the young men who headed to California to find gold. He bought two policies for face amounts of $500 each.But Allen died of dysentery just as the long voyage around the tip of South America neared its end. The fledgling National Life didn’t have cash on hand to pay Allen’s widow the $1,000. But its directors and officers put their personal credit on the line and worked with a local bank to pay the claims.‘Keeping our promises is not a newfound mission for us at National Life Group,’ said Mehran Assadi, president and CEO. ‘It dates to the day we paid that very first claim. We’re committed to our corporate values: Do Good. Be Good. Make Good.’National Life has weathered many other challenging times. The company paid more than $1 million in claims during the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918-19 and continued to pay World War I claims at the same time.Throughout, National Life has steadily grown. During its first year of operation, it sold 381 policies worth $479,950 insurance in force. By 1853, it had $1 million insurance in force. Assets reached $100 million in 1926.The company evolved into National Life Group, offering a full range of financial services. In 1968, the company formed a broker-dealer affiliate, Equity Services, Inc. Eight years later, National Life acquired Sentinel Advisors, manager of the Sentinel Family of Funds, one of the country’s oldest and most respected fund groups. Sentinel Funds are now distributed by Sentinel Financial Services Company, part of Sentinel Investments. And in 1996, National Life purchased the majority interest in Life Insurance Company of the Southwest, purchasing the remaining interest three years later.Today National Life Group is a Fortune 1000 firm whose member companies sell insurance, annuities and mutual funds in every state around the country. It serves in excess of 800,000 customers, has $72 billion of insurance in force and $26 billion of assets under management.The company, with primary offices in Montpelier, Vt., and Addison, Texas, employs 900 people. It ranks as one of the largest employers in Vermont. Through its charitable arm, the National Life Group Charitable Foundation, the company also contributes annually to the communities in Vermont and Texas where the bulk of its employees are based.National Life Group has also had a colorful and progressive history. In 1850, when virtually no women were insured in America, National Life issued policy #43 on Laura Ann Peaslee Webster. One of the company’s longest-serving agents was Ellen M. Putnam, who had been with the company for 70 years when she died in 1989.Some policyowners were also with the company for a very long time. Thomas Swan Hubbard had owned policy number 10 for 57 years when he died in 1907 at the age of 95. His policy had an original face value of $1,000 when purchased in 1850, and paid $2,300 on his death.‘Throughout our history, National Life Group has been dedicated to keeping our promises and to our vision of bringing peace of mind to everyone we touch,’ Assadi said. ‘That’s as true today as it was when the Vermont Legislature chartered the National Life Insurance Company.’The companies of National Life Group offer a broad range of financial products, including life insurance, annuities, and investments, and financial solutions in the form of estate, business succession and retirement planning strategies. They are a leading provider of 403(b)’ and 457(b) tax-deferred retirement plans,’ primarily in the’ K-12 school marketplace.National Life in the 1960s. Very top photo, Vermont Life n 1891.Source: National Life Nov. 13, 2013’ National Life Group’® is a trade name of National Life Insurance Company, Montpelier, Vt., Life Insurance Company of the Southwest, Addison, Texas, and their affiliates.’ Each company of National Life Group is solely responsible for its own financial condition and contractual obligations.’ Life Insurance Company of the Southwest is not an authorized insurer in New York and does not conduct insurance business in New York. Equity Services, Inc. is a Broker/Dealer and Registered Investment Adviser.Sentinel Investments’®’ is the unifying brand name for Sentinel Financial Services Company, Sentinel Asset Management, Inc., and Sentinel Administrative Services, Inc.’ All companies referenced are affiliated and located in Montpelier, VT unless otherwise indicated.
by Hilary Niles vtdigger.org Schools, teachers, administrators and other stakeholders rekindled debate Tuesday over standards that Vermont’s independent schools must meet.The discussion is round two for a controversial proposal to require independent schools to comply with the same standards public schools must meet for special education, teacher licensing, educational assessments, free meals and other conditions.The Vermont Independent Schools Association and the School Boards Association have met on their own to hash out differences between the two organizations. Representatives from both groups reported some progress to the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday afternoon when legislators considered S.91.If the groups come to terms, differences of opinion between the Vermont Council of Special Education Administrators, the Vermont-National Education Association and the Vermont Superintendents Association likely will remain.Joel Cook, executive director of the Vermont-NEA, said he’d be willing to talk about creative solutions to concerns about teacher licensing, for example. ‘But we have to be in the room to talk about that,’ Cook said.He appeared perturbed and concerned that his union ‘ the state’s largest, representing about 11,500 Vermont educators ‘ had not been involved in pre-session negotiations over the bill. Senate Education Committee Chair Dick McCormack, D-Windsor, assured Cook that he and all other stakeholders would have a seat at the table as discussions continue.As written, S.91 would only apply to independent schools that accept public money as tuition for one-third or more of their enrolled students, or independent schools organized primarily to serve a general student population.A school such as the Austine School for the Deaf in Brattleboro, for example, would not be subject to the requirements. It was unclear at the committee meeting whether athletic schools such as Burke Mountain Academy, which serves the local population as well as elite skiers, would fall under the new umbrella for compliance.Stakeholders from all constituencies underscored the value of independent schools. The division among them is whether public funds going to those independent schools should come with strings ‘ and if so, which ones.Supporters want to tie the money to state laws ensuring equal access to education and consistent educational standards for all students. Opponents want to preserve the independence of independent schools.The conversation occurs as public school enrollment continues to decline, school budgets continue to grow and independent schools continue to multiply in the state.Public dollar thresholdThere is some disagreement among stakeholders over the proportion of public funding that should trigger new standards for independent schools.School Boards Association executive director Stephen Dale said a school can be considered ‘substantially’ participating in the public system if at least one-third of its students are publicly funded. Others may lower the bar to 20 percent, Dale said, but he finds one-third to be reasonable.Stephen Dale, executive director of the Vermont School Boards Association, presents his organization’s take on proposed requirements for independent schools to the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDiggerVermont Independent Schools Association executive director Mill Moore fundamentally disagrees with that premise.‘An independent school is a provider of education, not public education,’ Moore stated. ‘Independent schools do things that public schools either cannot do or choose not to.’Jo-Anne Unruh. Photos by vtdigger.orgIn testimony from the Vermont Council of Special Education Administrators, executive director Jo-Anne Unruh underscored the role of her constituency and Local Education Agencies. Not only is education access for students with disabilities an important civil rights issue, she argued, but it’s LEA’s responsibility to ensure access ‘ whether a student attends a public school or not.For that reason, Unruh said, she’s resistant to setting any public dollar threshold before an independent school is required to meet the needs of special education students.Sen. Philip Baruth, D-Chittenden, was more concerned for the time being about a threshold’s potential unintended consequences than where exactly it may be set. He wondered out loud if a school might structure itself to keep below the one-third proportion of publicly funded students, effectively limiting school access in the wake of a policy designed to ensure access.Special educationUnruh disputed Moore’s assertion that special education students are not discriminated against. She said she’s seen it happen, but Moore contends that he’s yet to see any evidence supporting such a claim.Unruh also urged attention to students’ special education needs at an earlier age, rather than waiting for statutory 504 accommodations or comprehensive special education evaluations to kick in.Dale said that requiring special education services for at least four out of 13 categories of need, as S.91 currently proposes, could be better handled for both students and schools. Independents should be required to meet the needs of any admitted student, he said, but should not have to keep staff and equipment on-hand just in case a student with special needs walks through the door.‘This should be student-focused,’ Dale said. ‘We don’t want people spending a lot of money on things that aren’t benefiting students and that are just adding to overall costs ‘ which are as you know of interest in this building,’ he said, pointing outside the room to the rest of the Statehouse.Moore suggested that reducing the administrative burden for approval to attend to special needs would help more schools offer special services. He also said that it used to be standard practice for independents to work with their supervisory unions in much the same way public schools work with supervisory unions now to meet special education needs.Mill Moore, executive director of the Vermont Independent Schools Association, testifies before the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. Photo by Hilary Niles / VTDigger‘I’m told that level of cooperation has been substantially diminished,’ Moore said, but he wasn’t aware of any legal or administrative barriers to resuming coordination.Blind admissionsThe proposal to require blind admission to independent schools will also be contentious. Dale said it’s a fundamental question of equity from the school board’s perspective, but Moore said it could be a ‘deal-breaker’ for some independent schools.‘I’m sure it’s done with the best intentions to make sure a student matches the capacity of the school,’ Dale said. But if an independent school will be a ‘significant’ deliverer of public education, then he believes students should have an equal shot at access regardless of their own abilities or their parents’ ‘development potential.’Rather than focus on process, Moore suggested, perhaps a solution can be found in results. He said already about 85 percent of Vermont’s independent schools practice blind admissions. If 10 percent more could be coaxed there on a voluntary basis, for example, that would leave just a handful without the policies.Isn’t that enough progress, he asked. Because the last vestige could represent an insurmountable hurdle.Teacher licensingDale and Moore appear to have reached a deal on the bill’s proposal to require all the affected independent school teachers to be licensed in accordance with public school standards.‘We are willing to let that issue go,’ Dale said.Aside from requiring special education staff to prove their licenses and endorsements are current, he indicated he would not want to hold up the rest of the negotiations for anything more.Student assessmentThe independent and school board groups also appeared to have come to some agreement over educational assessments, which they said should be struck from the bill.Publicly funded students at independent schools must participate in assessments already, they said. The protocol is written into a different state statute, and is therefore not necessary in S.91.Dale said it felt like a ‘reach’ to require testing of all students, and Moore argued that it constituted an undue intrusion upon privately funded students and their families.Free and reduced price mealsMoore said a requirement to provide free or reduced price meals to low-income students should not be a problem.He said some of the logistics may need to be ironed out, and his group might ask for state support in the case of a couple small schools that might need to upgrade facilities.Next stepsS.91 will not be headed to the full chamber for debate anytime soon.Moore told the committee that his group’s proposed amendments would be at least a week or more in the making. And McCormack says he wants to hear from more stakeholders.
by Morgan True vtdigger.org(link is external) Dr Marvin Malek is alarmed by a pattern of violent patient behavior at the new Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital in Berlin. Malek started working at the facility in October as the lead consulting physician and his first day on the job ended with the examination one of the hospital’s psychiatrists whose patient “out of the blue had suddenly slugged him in the jaw.” In the span of one week, two psychiatrists were punched in the face, a nurse had been hit, and one of the less violent patients was blindsided, according to Malek. Two to three violent incidents occur at the hospital each week, he says.The old Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury had ongoing problems with patient violence and as a result was not able to provide a safe and therapeutic environment. Ultimately, the federal government pulled funding for the state hospital.(link is external)Jeff Rothenberg, CEO of the new state psychiatric hospital. Photo by Roger Crowley/for VTDiggerThe new Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital was designed to mitigate violent behaviors. But there have been 59 “incidents of direct physical actions against an employee” by a patient since the hospital opened in July, according to its CEO Jeff Rothenberg. Officials at Department of Mental Health, which oversees VPCH, would not provide any specifics about the episodes.The number and frequency of violent attacks is abnormal for a psychiatric facility, according to Malek. He believes policymakers must re-examine policies for medicating psychiatric patients against their will. He also says the state must re-evaluate how psychiatric patients who commit violent crimes enter the mental health system, and the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital specifically.Treating the most difficult cases all in one placeMalek is struck by the prevalence of paranoid schizophrenia among patients at the center, he said.Only 1 percent of people in the United States have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Only a fraction of them suffer from paranoia, and an even smaller number become violent, according to Malek.And yet, paranoid schizophrenics make up a substantial portion of the population at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital, he said.The patients at VPCH often have a history of trauma, complex psychiatric and medical needs, said Frank Reed, deputy commissioner of DMH. In combination, those factors make the center a “very high acuity” environment, Reed says.(link is external)Frank Reed, deputy commissioner of the Vermont Department of Mental Health. Photo by Roger Crowley/for VTDiggerThe severity of the patients’ illnesses makes them difficult to treat, but the situation is exacerbated because many are not taking prescribed antipsychotics, according to Malek.Nearly half the patients at the center exercise their legal right to challenge or refuse medication orders, according to Malek, which, he said, can slow their recovery and, in the meantime, endanger staff.At the same time, the 25-bed hospital has a significant number of patients who are sent from corrections “after being found guilty of a violent felony — usually assault, rape or murder.” These individuals are evaluated, found to be “criminally insane” and sent to the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital involuntarily, he said.DMH officials said currently seven of 20 patients at the center come from the corrections system. The remainder were referred to the center by community mental health professionals.The combined presence of unmedicated and “criminally insane” patients is driving the high number of violent attacks and creates “a palpable atmosphere of fear among employees at VPCH,” Malek said.In his view, the hospital is one of the most dangerous workplaces in Vermont.Involuntary medication and forensic patient procedures to be re-examined?New rules for judicial review of involuntary medication orders were passed into law last year, but were not fully implemented until November.That makes it difficult to assess what impact they’re having on treatment at VPCH and elsewhere, said Reed, and it’s unclear if they’ll be sufficient going forward.Supporters of the new rules argue medication helps psychotic episodes to pass more quickly, allowing patients to return home sooner and freeing up inpatient beds for others in crisis.Mental health professionals voiced safety concerns during debate in the Legislature saying unmedicated psychotic patients put mental health workers in danger(link is external).Opponents of the new involuntary medication procedures argue they increase the use of coercion in treatment, and many patients medicated against their will say the experience is traumatizing(link is external).Further changes to the involuntary medication process would likely be met with opposition.(link is external)Jack McCullough of the Mental Health Law Project speaks about Taser use by law enforcement as Allen Gilbert of the ACLU looks on, at the Statehouse in June 2012. VTD file photoJack McCullough, director of the Mental Health Law Project for Vermont Legal Aid, lobbied against the new rules passed last year. His office represents virtually all patients in involuntary treatment proceedings.“I don’t think Vermont should be apologetic in being solicitous to protect people’s rights,” McCullough said at the time the changes were being debated.DMH will hold a hearing to gather public input on those issues Jan. 6 at the Pavillion Building auditorium, 109 State St., in Montpelier starting at 9 a.m.Details on incidents scantThe 59 incidents that occurred at VPCH since its July opening include “anything from a push or scratch to a more physical engagement,” Reed said.State officials would not say how many incidents left staff with injuries, saying they won’t have that information until the Department of Human Resources processes resulting workers compensation claims.DMH has not tried to compare the number of violent incidents at VPCH to other psychiatric hospitals, Reed said.The hospital keeps detailed records of violent interactions between patients and staff, but “that information is not available to me at this time,” Reed said.(link is external)State Mental Health Commissioner Paul Dupre testified before the Legislature’s Mental Health Oversight Committee at the Statehouse in October 2013. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger“Certainly individuals have been hit,” he added.Reed would not provide further details, except to say he was aware of at least one psychiatrist who was injured after being punched in the face.After VTDigger exchanged initial emails with Rothenberg, DMH said any further communication would have to go through the commissioner’s office.DMH Commissioner Paul Dupre declined to comment for this report, instead deferring to Reed, his deputy.Emergency departments still bearing bruntThe new hospital was built as the cornerstone of Vermont’s mental health system(link is external). The facility was designed to house patients with complex mental illness, Reed said.However, it appears the difficult work environment is creating a barrier to hiring and keeping enough staff to keep the hospital at capacity. At one point, the hospital had filled 22 of 25 beds. Currently 20 beds are filled, according to figures from the state.The list of people waiting for inpatient admission for psychiatric treatment ranged daily from four to 11 over the last year-and-a-half, according to figures provided by DMH in September.When the center opened, the hope was it would reduce the number of psychiatric patients waiting in emergency departments for an inpatient placement, but that’s not been the case thus far, according to Reed.The average wait times for a placement have decreased, Reed said, although he acknowledged there are still “outliers” who are waiting for weeks instead of days.Reed was unable to provide documentation of average wait times, saying those figures are still being “pulled together.” The numbers will be presented to a legislative oversight committee in January.Housing psychiatric patients in emergency departments is disruptive, expensive and not appropriate for treatment, experts say.Lawmakers will explore whether the state needs additional transitional services aimed at keeping patients out of hospitals altogether, but a $100 million budget deficit could make that a tough sell this legislative session.Staffing an ongoing struggle for VPCHThe Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital originally hoped to be fully staffed and have 25 beds filled by mid-August, but that has not happened.It’s always been difficult to find nurses and mental health professionals, because there is a lack of qualified workers and the state has to compete with private hospitals, Reed said.(link is external)The interior of the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital, before it opened last summer. Photo by Roger Crowley/for VTDigger“It’s no different than it ever was, even when we had the Vermont State Hospital open, it’s always a challenge to keep the numbers up,” he said. “It’s not everyone who is suited to working with people who are mentally ill at their most acute.”But Malek said nurses at VPCH who have worked at other psychiatric facilities, “uniformly indicate that the psychiatric facilities elsewhere in the U.S. have far lower rates of violent attacks by patients.”The level of violence, he said, could be creating a barrier to attracting and retaining workers.The hospital continues to rely on traveling nurses and a pool of temporary workers. The hospital relies on temps to cover shifts during holidays and vacations, Reed said.In June, just prior to opening, the hospital had hired 150 of the 183 workers it would need to staff all 25 beds, and more workers were going through orientation, Rothenberg said at the time.Since then, 12 workers who were hired never showed up for orientation, six people quit, two permanent direct-care staff retired, one manager retired and one permanent worker died, according to Reed.There are currently 15 vacant nursing positions being filled to varying degrees by traveling nurses, who command higher wages because of the lack of job security.There are seven vacant mental health worker positions; 13 vacancies for temporary positions filling in scheduling gaps; as well as four vacant non-care positions, being filled by temps, and the hospital is considering hiring two more, according to Rothenberg.Six permanent and six temporary mental health workers are set to start orientation in January, he said.Building a decentralized systemWhen the 50-bed Vermont State Hospital was damaged by flooding in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene and closed, the Shumlin administration and the Legislature decided to build a new psychiatric hospital that would serve half as many patients. State officials opted to create a decentralized mental health system that would be more reliant on community programs and less dependent on hospitalization.(link is external)The entrance to Vermont State Hospital one month after Tropical Storm Irene. VTDigger file photoThe state invested in community-based treatment programs and facilities to avoid expensive inpatient stays and keep people with mental illness close to support networks.But when someone who is mentally ill has a psychotic episode, they can quickly become a danger to themselves or others. When that happens, they need to be admitted, often against their will, into a psychiatric facility.Since 2011, acutely ill psychiatric patients have wound up in hospital emergency departments that are poorly equipped to treat them. In some instances the state pays sheriff’s deputies to monitor dangerously psychotic patients(link is external) in emergency rooms. Vermont has paid more than $1 million since 2012 to have deputies monitor psychiatric patients in emergency departments.Patients are assessed by psychiatrists, and if they are unwilling but determined to need further treatment, they can be ordered into an inpatient psychiatric facility.After the Vermont State Hospital was closed, the state opened a temporary psychiatric hospital in Morrisville and contracted with private hospitals to treat patients who were committed against their will.There were not enough inpatient beds, however, and as a result, involuntary patients were spending far longer than the 72 hours allowed by law in hospital emergency departments, often languishing untreated and disrupting emergency rooms.Of the 584 people who received an emergency examination in 2013, roughly 20 percent — 119 patients — waited more than 72 hours before being admitted to an inpatient facility, according to figures from the mental health department.There continues to be a similar dearth of beds for people voluntarily seeking inpatient services. Reducing the need for private hospitals to take involuntary patients could free up more beds for people seeking inpatient treatment voluntarily, Reed said.Transitional mental health servicesOne challenge for Vermont is providing enough “step up” or “step down” services to help people with mental illness avoid hospitalization or transition back into their communities after an inpatient stay, Reed said.“If we can keep them moving through treatment, that will help free up (inpatient) beds,” he said.One such facility, Soteria House in Burlington, is expected to open in February, Reed said, after more than a year of delays. As part of community-based treatment, it will have five beds for people diverted from hospitalization who want to wean from medication.DMH is working with the Department of Buildings and General Services to draft a proposal for how to replace a temporary secure residential facility with seven beds in Middlesex.(link is external)An outdoor activity area where the gazebo and half-court basketball court will be built. Photo by Andrew Stein“What we will be looking to propose is up to 14 beds for secure residential, since that’s often where people can get stuck if they don’t have a treatment option in the community that can provide some level of security,” Reed said.Details of that proposal will be presented to the Legislature sometime in mid-January, Reed said.Reed acknowledged this will be a tough budget year to propose a new project, as all departments in the Agency of Human Services have been asked to look for ways to reduce expenses, but “it’s always a challenge to continue to prioritize services for the people who need them,” he said.
by Elizabeth Hewitt vtdigger.org(link is external) Lawmakers are looking to prioritize accommodations that will be needed to house Vermont’s aging prison population. A panel of legislators toured the Southern State Correctional Facility in Springfield on Thursday, with an eye toward the supports available for inmates with serious mental illness and complex medical needs. The medical needs of Vermont’s prison population are increasingly complex as inmates age and the portion of incarcerated people with mental health conditions grows.Rep. Alice Emmons, D-Springfield. File photo by Amy Ash Nixon/VTDigger“I think we’re all a little sobered,” Rep. Alice Emmons, D-Springfield, said as the Joint Legislative Justice Committee reconvened after their visit to Vermont’s largest prison facility.“They’re sicker, they’re older,” Dr. Dee Burroughs-Biron, health services director for the Department of Corrections, told lawmakers of the prison population. “We do have a lack of coordinated services in the community.”The medical needs of the aging population will be funded out of the state’s budget, Emmons said, as Medicaid does not foot the bill for incarcerated individuals.Southern State is Vermont’s newest prison facility. Completed in 2003, it was designed with an eye toward accommodating the health needs of the incarcerated population — particularly those with mental illness.According to Southern State’s supervisor, Mark Potanas, the Springfield facility is host to 59.4 percent of the prisoners in Vermont who are classified as seriously functionally impaired, or SFI. That designation exists only inside prisons and includes a broad range of conditions, from dementia to serious mental illness.Meanwhile, as the prison population ages, the DOC is serving increasingly complex health needs. The Southern State facility recently expanded to include a dialysis unit, so inmates can be treated on-site.Lawmakers asked DOC officials about developing other options for inmate medical care.Burroughs-Biron said that she has reached out to nursing homes to find alternative care for older inmates, but that many facilities are reluctant to take in people in the corrections system because of the stigma associated with incarceration.Nursing home accommodations are complicated, too, by the fact that many of Vermont’s older inmates with significant care needs are sex offenders. They would need to register their residence at the nursing home with the sex offender registry — which could be bad for business.“They don’t want to get that little red dot over their facility,” Burroughs-Biron said.Rep. Mary Hooper, D-Montpelier, said that the statistics show that the demands on the prison system are going to change in the coming years.“Clearly, we’re going to be having pressures on the system that we need to be doing planning for,” Hooper said.Lawmakers also raised questioned about the services for Vermonters in the criminal justice system with serious mental illness, and how much of those services should be the responsibility of the DOC.Hooper said that this may be the time for an evaluation of who the state should be incarcerating.“Are there people with mental illness who should be in jail or should they be someplace else?” she said.Rep. Maxine Grad, D-Moretown, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, said after the meeting that state lawmakers should continue to scrutinize the corrections system.“I think we need to continue to look at our sentencing structure and how we’re using our facilities and whether or not we are incarcerating the correct people,” Grad said.This was not the first time Emmons, who chairs the House Corrections and Institutions Committee, has visited a correctional facility, she said after the meeting. But this visit was different than previous trips, she said.“The complexities and the severities of the situations we’ve seen with offenders is much, much different than four or five years ago,” Emmons said.Mental health and dementia are more prominent in the prison population, she said, and that prompts reflection.“We say as a society that we do not want to institutionalize folks with mental illness,” Emmons said. “Well, we are institutionalizing them. We’re institutionalizing them in a corrections facility that is inappropriate but it is out of sight so people do not think it’s existing.”
Vermont Business Magazine The Northwestern Vermont Board of REALTORS (NVBR) awarded its 2017 REALTORS of Distinction Awards at Echo, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain on Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Over 200 industry representatives and guests were present at the annual event.2017 NVBR REALTOR® of the YearRobbi Handy Holmes, C21 Jack AssociatesSouth Burlington, VTRobbi Handy Holmes, a resident of Colchester, was named the 2017 Realtor® of the Year. She has been a Realtor® with C21 Jack Associates since 2006. During this time, she has been actively involved in NVBR. She first served on the Education Committee where she was instrumental in creating the popular monthly lunch and learns for members. She joined the Board of Directors in 2014 and has held several positions, including being this year’s President. As President, she has brought her new ideas to the Board which includes the formation of an Affiliates Council, and most recently establishment of the Northwestern Vermont Realtors® Charitable Foundation which will provide a structured vehicle for Realtors® to be more visible in the community with charitable and educational opportunities.2017 Distinguished Service AwardDavid Gray, Coldwell Banker Hickok and Boardman RealtyBurlington, VTDavid Gray, a resident of Essex Junction, was honored with the 2017 Distinguished Service Award by NVBR. David joined the Realtor® Association in 1996 after a long career in retail sales and management. From the beginning, David had the strong sense that it was important to give back to the profession and community in which he makes a living. Through participating in membership meetings, state conventions, regional and national meetings, he set the bar for professionalism and aspired to bring that level of professionalism to other Realtors®. He served in many leadership positions, including President of NVBR and President of Vermont Realtors®. He served as a Director for the National Association of Realtors® representing Vermont, and was instrumental in the Vermont CRS Chapter. David has given countless hours to local non-profits without expectation of public recognition. He does so because it is the right thing to do. Some of those organizations benefiting from his service include Rebuilding Together Burlington and Habitat for HumanityDavid’s vision and focus on what is best for the real estate industry and the Realtor® profession is in indication of the success he has attained in his career. 2017 Rookie of the YearJulie Danaher, KW VermontSouth Burlington, VTJulie Danaher, a resident of Milton, was named 2017 Rookie of the Year. She became licensed in November 2016, and has risen as a star among the agents at KW Vermont. As Principal Broker Brian Armstrong describes her, “I have never had such an enthusiastic and confident new licensee who holds herself to such a high standard of professionalism”. To Julie, it’s all about helping people feel confident in the home buying process. Her dedication to finding creative solutions to help untangle difficult situations brings rave reviews from her clients. She is driven by customer service and passion for helping others.Her commitment to education is key. She participates in many continuing education classes at KW, and in fact has begun to teach buyer consultations to new agents in her office. She attends NVBR social events and lunch and learns offered at NVBR. She has hosted a home buyer seminar and promotes the benefits of using a Realtor®.Julie participates in the KW Red Day at Camp Ta Kum Ta, and has done fundraising for Hunger Free Vermont, and is active in the Milton community.2017 Good Neighbor AwardJessica Peck, RE/MAX North ProfessionalsColchester, VTREALTORS® are notable for their work in the community. Jessica Peck, a resident of South Burlington, was presented with the 2017 Good Neighbor Award by NVBR. A resident of South Burlington, she was known this past winter as Burlington’s “scarf lady”. Without fanfare or wanting any public recognition, Jess began her random act of knitting by placing hand knit scarves in Burlington’s City Hall Park for those in need. Her kindness made the news, and her secret was out. Many of the recipients were thrilled for the gift and the warmth of her generosity.But knitting scarves isn’t her only community service activity. She is a volunteer with the Kids-A-Part program which allows children to visit their incarcerated mothers. As part of this program she takes children to correctional facilities and oversees the child’s visit with the parent. She has participated in the Children’s Miracle Network and was a volunteer at the UVM Medical Center helping children and their families through the challenges of a hospital stay.2017 NVBR Affiliate Member of the YearLisa Gale, Gale & McAllister, ColchesterLisa Gale, a resident of Colchester, was named the 2017 NVBR Affiliate Member of the Year. Affiliate Members play an important role in NVBR’s membership. They are active participants on committees, support monthly membership meetings and educational programs provide valuable assistance to REALTORS® in transactions with their buyers and sellers. Lisa has been practicing law for more than 25 years, and has been a member of NVBR for 18 years. As a member, she has been a sponsor in many key NVBR events, has generously participated in the Association’s charitable giving program and has been an instructor for the NVBR lunch and learns on several occasions. She is called upon by many NVBR members for guidance and is able to provide a wide range of advice and solutions to meet their client needs.Lisa’s law firm, Gale & McAllister is located in Colchester, VT.________________________________________________________________The Northwestern Vermont Board of REALTORS® (NVBR) is the “Voice for Real Estate” for nearly 650 members in Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle Counties. REALTORS® adhere to strict professional standards and a Code of Ethics that demonstrate high integrity, competency and fairness to their clients and fellow REALTORS®.VBM vermontbiz.com(link is external),Yes
Vermont Business Magazine Governor Scott will be among the special guest speakers to officially unveil a new transportation shuttle, the Vermont Shires Connector. The ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at the Hampton Inn in Manchester starting at 12:30 pm on Wednesday, October 11, 2017. The Vermont Shires Connector is the new bus service linking southwestern Vermont to rail service in New York’s Capital Region. Premier Coach operates the line with a partnership with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) and Amtrak.As of earlier this month, riders were able to buy a single ticket for travel through interline ticketing by visiting Amtrak’s website or VTrans website. With stops in Manchester and Bennington, the bus brings riders to the Amtrak station in Rensselaer, N.Y., the Greyhound terminal in Albany and Albany International Airport.The bus starts at the tour bus parking area at the municipal parking lot in Manchester Center, and then the Hampton Inn and The Equinox hotels. In Bennington, the bus picks up and drops off riders adjacent to the parking lot for the Bennington Station Restaurant on River Street before it continues on into New York.The ribbon cutting ceremony will include a few keywords by Governor Scott along with comments from Amtrak, VT Trans, the Manchester select board, and the Manchester Business Association. Other partners include the Bennington County Regional Commission and the Chamber of Commerce.To learn more about the service visit: Vttranslines.com/vermont-shires-connector(link is external)/Source: Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce 9.25.2017
Vermont Business Magazine On October 16, Vermont PBS proudly celebrates 50 years of serving the people of Vermont and its surrounding regions with a week of commemorative events and special programming chronicling the station’s half century mission to educate, inform, entertain and inspire.“These four pillars have been driving our station further since our first broadcast in 1967, shaping who we are, the programs we produce, and the communities we build,” said Holly Groschner, Vermont PBS CEO. “We continue to live into that mission, offering a relevant alternative to the commercial networks as the state’s only publicly owned television network.”“Since our first broadcast in 1967, our work as Vermont’s trusted non-commercial media company has been shaping who we are as a community,” said Holly Groschner, Vermont PBS President and CEO. “You can see our lives together as leaders, parents, students, neighbors, educators and friends in our substantial archive project. I am grateful for 50 years of fantastic support from viewers and members, and the dedication of this station’s loyal employees and collaborators. This is an institution of good will. We invite you to share with us a magnificent opportunity to imagine the most engaging storytelling and communication, to be used in service to Vermont for 50 years to come.”Since its inception, the station has been a beacon of diversity, inclusion, and enlightenment, serving the interests of all Vermonters. Vermont Educational Television (Vermont ETV) went on the air in 1967, focusing on weekday programming for classrooms. Shortly after, the station joined the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and today, Vermont PBS has four channels that run 24 hours per day, 7 days per week and is available on multiple online platforms.Vermont PBS will be airing a The Vermont PBS 50th Anniversary Special on October 16 at 8 pm, focused around its first decade of operation. The show will look back at our early days with beautifully restored archival footage and interviews with past employees. Immediately following, the station will air a complete program from its archive, Land of Promise. The award-winning show explores the Franklin Country dairy industry, providing a fascinating look back at a topic that remains just as relevant today as it was when it first aired in 1974.Vermont PBS has partnered with venues across the state to provide free admission to the public, a gesture of appreciation to its many loyal viewers and supporters around the region.You can enjoy free admission* at the following locations and dates:ECHO: Monday, October 16, 1-5 pmVINS: Tuesday, October 17 (Note: VINS will also mark its 45th anniversary on this date.)Fairbanks Museum: Monday-Friday, October 16-20Coupon required for free admission. Coupon is available here: http://r.vermontpbs.org/img/pdf/CouponFairbanks2017.pdf(link is external)*Free admission doesn’t include the planetarium.Shelburne Museum: Thursday, October 19Free admission for those 17 and under.*Each venue has unique restrictions. For more information on these events please visit: https://www.vermontpbs.org/birthday/(link is external)Vermont PBS is Vermont’s statewide public media provider and visual storyteller, with a commitment to cultural enrichment and civic engagement. More information is available at vermontpbs.org(link is external).Source: Colchester, Vt. – October 6, 2017 – Vermont PBS vermontpbs.org(link is external)
by Bruce Edwards, Vermont Business MagazineQ: How’s the local economy doing? A: Pretty well, actually. We have a new company relocating to Montpelier, Caledonia Spirits (makers of the Bar Hill brand). That will improve net job creation by 30 or so persons. Enrollment in schools is up this year, we have several housing projects underway and a major hotel coming to downtown. Our pipeline of projects looks positive for the next 24 months or so. We are also hoping to add a new Tax Increment Finance (TIF) district in Montpelier that would be a huge boost to many projects and lift both our local and regional economy in the coming years. That process is already underway.Q: What feedback are you getting from some of the larger manufacturers, employers as to how their companies are doing?A: The larger entities are holding their own for the most part. It is the smaller shops that feel the most pressure when weather or construction projects interfere with their normal business cycle.In general and across the board, the issues I see businesses facing seem to fall into at least one of three categories: 1) a lack of workers 2) a lack of customers or 3) a lack of room to expand. Businesses need investment to grow and that ability to make such investments only comes from sustained periods of high productivity. Economic development must help remove obstacles inhibiting sustained periods of high productivity (e.g. labor shortages, housing supply, etc).I read a study the other day that showed Vermont is 33rd in the nation at $48,123 and second to last in New England (if) you look at Gross State Product per capita as an indicator of productivity. We have to improve that. Businesses can, and must, become more competitive — which requires investment, innovation and talent. Improving economic conditions requires more than research and policy. We need to shift in attitudes. Economic development can no longer be taken for granted.Q: How is Montpelier’s downtown? Many vacancies?A: We actually don’t have that many vacancies downtown. Part of the reason for the few vacancies we do have has more to do with landlords that are unwilling to compromise… i.e. to subdivide larger spaces for tenants or lower the ask price. We have some new apartments going into the French Block — and that alone will have a nice ripple effect downtown (a challenge to that project was dropped in October and work is expected to begin by the end of this year, resulting in 18 apartments). The 1 Taylor Street Bus Terminal and housing project will be another economic trigger to help lease up the remaining vacancies. The downtown market will adjust to those changes pretty quickly.The 1 Taylor Street project will be breaking ground soon. That project alone will yield more than 30 new housing units, not to mention the multi-modal terminal downtown.Q: What are your challenges/opportunities?A: I’m very focused on housing right now. The housing supply issue is critical to attracting and retaining the talented people Montpelier needs for economic growth. A good housing supply is an essential part of my economic growth plan, and we are working to come from behind and correct for several variables… including: an aging housing stock, tight supply and rising prices near some employment centers. Housing shortages force people to make difficult choices about how and where to live if not in Montpelier. We don’t want that.In terms of our opportunities, we have many, but we have to filter those opportunities as we go to determine: What actions will pay the highest dividends in terms of available housing inventory? What is the right mix of commercial and residential development to seek?Where will development projects help Montpelier the most?How can we get tax relief for residents and businesses while accomplishing growth?I have great hope for Montpelier. The people of the city care about each other, their quality of life and the prosperity of the city for future generations. The city seems to be embracing the Montpelier Development Corporation’s economic development mission and what we are working to accomplish for Montpelier.Bruce Edwards is a freelance writer from Southern Vermont. This article first appeared in the November issue of Vermont Business Magazine.
Vermont Business Magazine Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) will host a town hall at 7 pm ET tonight to examine the consequences of Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. The town hall will be live streamed on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter in partnership with The Guardian, The Intercept, NowThis, The Young Turks, Act.tv and MoveOn.org.Sanders will be joined by regional, security and nonproliferation experts to discuss how Trump’s decision will impact U.S. foreign policy in the short term and the long term.They will discuss how after nearly two decades of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, Trump’s decision to pull out of the deal moves the U.S. closer to yet another conflict in the Middle East. And at a time when the United States spends more on defense than the next 10 countries combined, Sanders and his panel will consider alternatives to the hawkish Washington foreign policy establishment that remains committed to never-ending military interventions.The event is open to the press and public. Guests interested in attending can find more information here(link is external).Press interested in attending should RSVP here(link is external).WHO: Sen. Bernie Sanders; Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund; Suzanne DiMaggio, senior fellow at New America; Rob Malley, president and CEO of the International Crisis Group; Lara Friedman, president of Foundation for Middle East PeaceWHAT: Breaking the Deal: A Town Hall on Trump’s Iran DecisionWHERE: Capitol Visitors’ Center Congressional Auditorium (CVC-200) and live streamed on Facebook(link is external), Twitter(link is external) and YouTube(link is external).WHEN: Monday, May 14 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. ET. PANELISTS:Joe Cirincione, President, Ploughshares FundIn addition to his role as president of the Ploughshares Fund, Cirincione is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and was a member of Secretary of State John Kerry’s International Security Advisory Board. Cirincione worked for nine years in the US House of Representatives on the professional staff of the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Government Operations. He previously served as Vice President for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress and Director for Nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.Suzanne DiMaggio, Senior Fellow, New AmericaDiMaggio is a director and senior fellow at New America, where she focuses on U.S. foreign policy, the Middle East, and Asia. She has been leading Track 1.5 and Track 2 diplomatic initiatives on regional security, terrorism, nonproliferation, and governance for nearly 20 years. She has a special interest in the role of policy dialogue with countries that the United States has limited or no official relations, especially Iran and North Korea. DiMaggio directs the U.S.-Iran Initiative, which is carried out through a combination of policy dialogue, research, and a series of public events and private roundtables, with the aim of generating analyses and recommendations in support of improving relations between the two countries. The project’s centerpiece is a long-running dialogue that she established in 2002, which brings together influential and knowledgeable Americans and Iranians to explore possible grounds for constructive engagement and develop mutually acceptable strategies for addressing a range of issues, including Iran’s nuclear program, regional security, and U.S.-Iran relations. Rob Malley, President and CEO, International Crisis GroupRobert Malley is president and CEO of the International Crisis Group. He was the White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and Gulf Region under President Obama, a senior adviser to the president for the counter-ISIS campaign and the White House lead negotiator for the Iran deal. Malley was most recently a senior director at the National Security Council. Prior to holding this title, he was Program Director for Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group and Assistant to National Security Advisor Sandy Berger and the Director for Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs at the National Security Council. He is considered an expert on Israeli-Palestinian conflicts, and as a Special Assistant to President Clinton was a member of the U.S. peace team that helped organize the 2000 Camp David Summit.Lara Friedman, President, Foundation for Middle East PeacePrior to coming to FMEP, Lara was the Director of Policy and Government Relations at Americans for Peace Now, and before that she was a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, serving in Jerusalem, Washington, Tunis and Beirut. Lara is a leading authority on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, with particular focus on the Israeli-Arab conflict, settlements and Jerusalem, and on the role of the U.S. Congress. She frequently briefs Members of Congress, Administration officials, and others in the foreign policy/national security community, and is regularly published in the U.S. and Israeli press.Source: WASHINGTON, May 14 – Sen. Bernie Sanders