VT Gov. Shumlin cuts the ribbon on Brattleboro Retreat’s new Adult Intensive Unit designed by Lavallee Brensinger

‘A new era’ Retreat opens $5.3M unit

On the day Tropical Storm Irene ravaged Vermont, Rob Simpson watched as the first bus carrying 16 patients from the flood-damaged Vermont State Hospital rolled into the Brattleboro Retreat.

“These patients were, in many cases, frightened and upset by the day that they had been through,” said Simpson, the Retreat’s president and CEO.

“I wrote at the time in my administrative journal, ‘I can only imagine the difficulty of being ill, of being hospitalized and then going through a natural disaster and an evacuation — for some patients, leaving behind the only possessions they had in the world.'”

The events of Aug. 29, 2011 led directly to a gathering Monday afternoon at the Retreat as administrators, employees, mental-health advocates and others marked the opening of a newly renovated, 14-bed adult intensive unit.

Officials say the facility is meant for “the state’s most severely ill psychiatric patients” — the type of patient who would have gone to Vermont State Hospital before Irene struck.

“This is a huge celebration,” Gov. Peter Shumlin declared before cutting a ceremonial ribbon. “And I want to say, I think it represents a new era — I hope — in Retreat-state relations.”