Legislative Update
VAHHS Legislative Update
Whew, what a week! In the first veto override vote in over 10 years, the House failed to override the governor’s veto on paid family and medical leave by one vote. Minimum wage landed on the governor’s desk on Tuesday. He has five days to veto it, so we should hear news imminently. It was also a busy week in the health care world, tackling telehealth, workforce, and budgets, budgets, budgets.
Last Week
Telehealth : in the House Health Care committee, Dr. Joshua White, the Chief Medical Officer at Gifford Medical Center, along with Sarah Chistolini and Natasha Withers from the University of Vermont Health Network, testified in support of  H. 723 , a bill that expands reimbursement for store-and-forward technology to all medically necessary services, such as e-consults and asynchronous communication in a patient’s home. Right now, reimbursement for store-and-forward is limited to dermatology and ophthalmology. The witnesses testified that expanding reimbursement for store-and-forward will give primary care providers and patients better access to specialists.
In the News
NMC head to resign
St. Albans Messenger

The Northwestern Medical Center (NMC)’s Board of Directors announced Thursday that Jill Berry Bowen, the hospital’s chief executive officer for more than a decade, was resigning.

According to the hospital, Bowen was leaving to “explore opportunities for the next phase of her career.”

“It has truly been an honor to work with the NMC board, leadership team, medical staff and incredibly talented team for the past ten years,” Bowen said in a statement. “I am proud of what we’ve accomplished together and will be staying in Vermont and cheering on Northwestern Medical Center and our communities in the years ahead.”

According to NMC, Bowen has agreed to remain in her role through April 2020 to assist with the hospital’s transition as its board of directors launches a nationwide search for her replacement.
SVHC offers free paid training for licensed nursing assistants
Bennington Banner

Southwestern Vermont Health Care is offering free training for prospective licensed nursing assistants. Those who enter SVHC's program, which typically costs as much as $1,400, agree to a one-year contract, receive free training, and earn the starting hourly rate while they train.

Over the past several years, SVHC has trained hundreds of people to become licensed nursing assistants. Many have gone on to careers in the health system's skilled nursing facilities or in the hospital's inpatient units.

"This is a great, very cost-effective way to begin a health care career," said Eileen Wood, the program coordinator. "LNAs earn good wages, gain valuable experience, and help others. It can be very satisfying."

Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony for Virtual Living Room for Veterans, Feb 10
Vermont Business Magazine

Veterans living in areas of rural Vermont will soon have another option to access medical and behavioral health appointments. The White River Junction VA Healthcare System has partnered with The Foundation for Rural Service (FRS), CoBank, American Legion Post 19, and Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom to open The Virtual Living Room, a comfortable, private space housed within the American Legion facility in Bristol, VT. This dedicated space allows area Veterans to access health care appointments, using telehealth services, as an alternative to driving long distances to the nearest VA facility or health care provider. 

People in rural communities across the country often encounter difficulties in accessing health care services. Veterans living in the Twin States face similar challenges. There may be a shortage of medical and behavioral providers in their community, and the nearest VA facility is too far away. Perhaps they lack a home internet connection or there are no broadband services in the community to support the option of telemedicine. The Virtual Living Room® provides a viable, promising resource for area rural Veterans to gain critical access to a broad range of medical and behavioral health care. 

Rep. Welch hosts roundtable on substance use disorders
My NBC 5

On Monday, nearly two years after his first Northeast Kingdom roundtable on substance abuse and the opioid epidemic, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, joined stakeholders from nearly every angle combating the addiction crisis.

"If you don't have your basic needs met, that's a huge stresser," said Brian Pickard, who attended the roundtable and works for housing organization Rural Edge.

"It felt like we were more of a cohesive group," said Rosemary Weber, a district manager for Newport Probation and Parole.

Weber and Pickard both attended the original roundtable in May 2018, and both told NBC5 that communication among stakeholders has greatly improved.

"Being able to bring a resource to these partners who are working with these individuals, that's just one less thing someone has to carry during their recovery," he added. "It puts them in a position to be more successful."

Information about the Coronavirus
Vermont Department of Health

The Health Department is closely monitoring the rapid developments in the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus. Vermont is prepared to respond to protect and support Vermonters. As of February 6, 2020 there are no confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in Vermont.

While the immediate risk of this new virus to the American public is believed to be low at this time, everyone can do their part to help us respond to this emerging public health threat.

People in the News
Mark Your Calendar!
Wednesday, February 12, 8:30 a.m.
Pavillion Auditorium/State House, Montpelier

Now until March 10
Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital