The Brattleboro Retreat

The Brattleboro Retreat

BRATTLEBORO — The Brattleboro Retreat laid off 85 workers on Friday as part of a decision to cut five outpatient programs.

The Retreat cut $8 million from the annual budget in order to move the state’s largest mental health facility toward financial sustainability, according to a letter to staff from President and CEO Louis Josephson.

At the end of the year, the private psychiatric facility will close five programs: a Hub program that provides medication-assisted therapy for opioid addiction, an outpatient addiction-management program called Starting Now, the Retreat’s pain-management program, a K-12 on-site therapeutic school for patients, and a preschool, Mulberry Bush Independent School.

Josephson said the decision was “an important step in assuring the Retreat’s long term survivability.” The state relies on the Retreat, which accounts for half the state’s total inpatient mental health capacity. It also has all of Vermont’s 30 beds for children and teens, as well as units for involuntarily admitted patients. The Retreat has approximately 550 employees.

The employees were given 60 days’ notice. Some would likely transition to other open positions at the Retreat, Josephson said in the letter. Spokesman Konstantin von Krusenstiern provided the letter to VTDigger in response to a request for comment.

The cuts are the latest in a string of challenges for the beleaguered Retreat. The state has propped up the facility with millions in funding: In January, the Legislature approved $2 million after Josephson threatened closure. In March, the state provided $7.3 million in loans and grants. Most recently, the Legislature approved $10.2 million in June, as part of a nine-step agreement for the facility to cut costs and move to financial sustainability.

This spring, an employees union reported that more than 115 staff had left between January and May, expressing frustration with Retreat leadership, concerns over staff safety and fear of retaliation for speaking out.

As a result of the cuts, the Retreat will focus on inpatient mental health care. It will continue to run and staff units for adults, children and teens, as well as youth residential services, according to Josephson. The Spoke program for outpatient medication-assisted therapy, its outpatient Anna Marsh Clinic and online therapy programs will also continue to operate.

The Retreat has temporarily reduced the number of beds for youth, due to decreased demand, according to the letter.

Programs will be cut where “demand has dropped and/or income has not kept pace with costs,” Josephson said.

Ultimately, the cuts will keep the facility viable, he said. “As difficult as these decisions have been to make, it would have been devastating had we continued to seek out temporary fixes and stood before you one day in the not-too-distant future announcing that the Retreat had no choice but to close altogether,” Josephson said.