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Vermont marks opening of psychiatric hospital that replaces Irene-damaged facility

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BERLIN, Vermont — A new 25-bed psychiatric hospital built to replace the Vermont State Hospital in Waterbury after it was flooded in Tropical Storm Irene and became unusable is ready to receive its first patients within the next several days.

The completion of the $28.5 million hospital is a critical piece of Vermont's plan to provide sufficient beds for psychiatric patients by working with the Rutland Regional Medical Center, the Brattleboro Retreat and a temporary facility in Middlesex, officials said.

"Finally we can truly say Vermont is protecting and caring for some of our most vulnerable neighbors in an efficient, high-quality building and appropriately treating mental illness like any other disease," Gov. Peter Shumlin said at a Tuesday ribbon cutting for the new facility.

Vermont had been searching for years for a way to replace the old Vermont State Hospital. Tropical Storm Irene forced the state's issue after it flooded the hospital in 2011 and caused it to be abandoned.

The new hospital will serve the most acutely ill. Additional programs will offer step-down and alternative community programs for people who need services, officials said.

"This is a recognition that acute mental health treatment will be provided to any individual in need of psychiatric hospitalization in a setting that is comparable with other physical health care settings," Mental Health Commissioner Paul Dupre said.

The cost of the new hospital was split among the state, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and insurance proceeds.

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