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Suicide At Brattleboro Retreat Leads To State Investigation

Officials are investigating the suicide of a 13-year-old girl Friday evening  at the Brattleboro Retreat. 

The girl, whose name hasn’t been released, was a patient in the psychiatric hospital’s Adolescent Residential Program. She was living at a group home adjacent to the hospital.

Retreat Vice President Peter Albert described the group home as a "less intense clinical setting" than the hospital’s inpatient programs.

“It’s a smaller setting of five or six adolescents with staff,” Albert explained. “The doors are not locked. There’s a greater level of freedom because the concern about immediate harm is not there the way it is on an inpatient unit. So this is a 'step down' facility where people do have more freedoms. And the goal is to reunite them with their families or work with state agencies to get a community placement.”

Albert said police have been at the hospital investigating and conducting interviews with staff. The state Division of Child and Family Services, which licenses residential homes, is also at the hospital investigating the death.

This is the third suicide at the Retreat in two years. A woman in an outpatient program took her own life in September. An overdose on an inpatient unit in 2012 led to an investigation in which the hospital narrowly escaped losing its Medicare and Medicaid certification.

Alpert said he doesn’t know whether the young girl’s suicide could lead to similar problems for the hospital. He said the focus now is helping the girl’s family and fellow patients cope with the tragedy, and on supporting the investigation.

Susan Keese was VPR's southern Vermont reporter, based at the VPR studio in Manchester at Burr & Burton Academy. After many years as a print journalist and magazine writer, Susan started producing stories for VPR in 2002. From 2007-2009, she worked as a producer, helping to launch the noontime show Vermont Edition. Susan has won numerous journalism awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for her reporting on VPR. She wrote a column for the Sunday Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus. Her work has appeared in Vermont Life, the Boston Globe Magazine, The New York Times and other publications, as well as on NPR.
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