MONTPELIER – After criticism over its handling of the looming mental health crisis in the state, the Vermont State Department of Mental Health has been disbanded. All state programs dealing with mental health will now be under the jurisdiction of the Vermont Agency of Transportation. Two new staff members will be added to accommodate the increased workload, and several initiatives are set to begin in the fall or early winter.
Many of the new programs are specifically designed to deal with road rage, which VTrans has designated the mental health problem with the “most significant impact on Vermonters” at this time. Other significant initiatives include new fences designed to prevent suicide.
“The state of Vermont takes mental health very seriously,” said Vtrans employee Nat Goode. “We know the best way to help people who are struggling with depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide is to put up fences around bridges, thus eliminating the problem completely. Of course this would impede traffic during foliage season, so we’re delaying the fences until November, so in the meantime we are asking people to just drive defensively and take public transportation whenever possible. And also to try not to jump off the bridges during foliage season.”
Despite the new direction of the state’s mental health programming, not all of the old systems have been eliminated, and The Winooski would like to remind anyone struggling with thoughts of self-injury that they can text “VT” to 741741 from anywhere in the USA, anytime, about any type of crisis, dial 2-1-1 for support services, or call the national suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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