On July 7, the Brattleboro Retreat launched a new, and rather bold venture, New England's first inpatient mental health and addiction treatment program designed exclusively to meet the needs of individuals who are lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT).
The 16-bed program has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, with fewer clients than the Retreat had hoped to be helping, but according to Dr. Julie Prause, MD, the medical director of the unit, other important aspects of the program have gone very well, especially the people that have applied to staff the unit.
"The staff has gelled very well," Dr. Prause said. "The staff really communicates well. They really want to be there. It's something they believe in. That's about as good as it gets."
Dr. Prause said that the Retreat is starting to make a serious effort to get the word out about the availability of the unit. He said that he or other representitives of the facility would be attending several mental health conferences over the coming few months to publicize and even make some presentations about the unit.
"People came to us and said that there is a need out there," Dr. Prause said. "We took a look at it, did some homework and decided it was something that we wanted to do at the Retreat."
LGBT patients receive care for a variety of issues including depression and other mood disorders, anxiety, grief and loss, sexual compulsivity, sexual identity issues, HIV/AIDS and related concerns and alcohol and other drug addiction.
"The need for this type of program is timely, and the Retreat will provide members of the LGBT community with outstanding care delivered in an environment that is safe, respectful and positive," said Dr. Rob Simpson, president and chief executive officer. "We are intent on building a center of excellence for the treatment of LGBT individuals from the northeast and beyond."
Program services will include psychological and medical evaluation, around-the-clock acute hospital care, drug and alcohol detox/short-term stabilization, medication management, group and individual therapy and therapeutic recreation along with after care planning that is tailored to the needs of LGBT individuals, according to literature received from the Retreat.
"The environment of care will be 100 percent LGBT affirmative," said Dr. Praus said in a statment released by the Retreat. "Every member of the Retreat's clinical team has been carefully selected for this program and is trained in sensitivity to LGBT issues. We will be able to accomplish results that are often impossible for patients in 'mixed' clinical settings. In addition to excellent clinical care, the support and acceptance patients share with each other plays a powerful role in the healing process."
One of the unit staff members, mental health worker Lori Weber, is also an accomplished artist, and has painted three murals throughout the unit that help create a welcoming, friendly and bright atmosphere.
Other members of the Retreat's LGBT clinical leadership team include Susan Pickford, RN, nurse manager, and Erica Masson, a LICSW, lead social worker.