Legislative Update – February 6, 2020

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Feb 6, 2020 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

In this update, I am focusing on other House Committee work that I think will be of interest to you. Please let me know if you have any questions or feedback.

New Business Portal – Secretary of State

Starting your own business can be an overwhelming process! In an effort to better serve us, the state is developing an online tool that will help people start their business in Vermont. In partnership with the Vermont Department of Taxes, Vermont Department of Labor, and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, the Office of the Secretary of State is developing a one-stop shop that seamlessly integrates the requirements of all agencies in a single online application process. The Secretary of State’s office has chosen the vendor that will build the portal, using Salesforce software, that will draw in the different facets needed for each unique start-up business’ needs. This is a wonderful step in the right direction to help all sectors of our business community. The portal will be completed in phases with the first step completed in Fall 2020.

House Health Care Committee

The Brattleboro Retreat‘s financial instability has gained much attention in the news lately. The Retreat plays a unique and crucial role in VT’s mental healthcare system. A significant portion of their inpatient revenue comes from VT Medicaid, and the Retreat is the only provider of inpatient mental health services to children under 18 in VT. This is particularly important to note at a time when our state has seen a dramatic uptick in the residential treatment needs of young children. The Retreat has been operating at a loss for a number of years and using their reserves to make their budget whole. However, it has now significantly depleted its reserves. The Retreat and the Agency of Human Services are undergoing negotiations with the goal of keeping the Retreat open, but also considering structural changes such that it will be financially viable into the future.

Human Services Committee 

H.162 – Removal of buprenorphine from the misdemeanor crime of possession of a narcotic
The Committee continued receiving testimony on H.162 begun last session. The bill aims to decriminalize a typical 30-day supply of buprenorphine that a person has secured through non-prescription means. A new amendment presented by Rep. Sandy Haas would decrease the quantity considerably from amounts detailed in the original bill. Witness testimony and growing national research indicate that individuals with substance misuse disorder take “street bupe” as a first step towards ending heroin/opioid misuse and beginning the transition into treatment (that phenomenon is evident in Vermont as well). While most in the medical community would prefer to reserve buprenorphine treatment to prescribing doctors affiliated with the hub-and-spoke system statewide, doctors admitted that access, timing and transportation still delay care for patients in numerous communities outside of Chittenden County. There is an ongoing discussion in the Committee about how to ensure that law enforcement officials are connecting those with non-prescription buprenorphine to immediate treatment.

H.572 – Maternal Mortality Review Panel
By a vote of 11-0-0, the Human Services Committee passed H.572 out of committee last week. The bill was requested by the VT Health Department as a best-practice nationwide in establishing an advisory panel to review maternal deaths in the state each year; and to identify factors that might be contributing to increases in maternal mortality so that system changes can be made to improve health care for women. There are typically 2-4 maternal deaths in Vermont per year. (The timeline for women in this category is from the beginning of pregnancy to one year after delivery). The Commissioner of Health would appoint panel members. A report to the Legislature on maternal deaths annually is also included in the legislation. H.572 has gone to Appropriations for continuing action.

H.611 – Older Vermonters Act
H.611 establishes an Older Vermonters Act, detailing a system of services, supports, and protections for Vermont residents 60 years of age or older that would ensure their self-determination; safety and protection; coordinated and efficient system of services; financial security; optimal health and wellness; social connection and engagement; housing, transportation and community design; and family caregiver support. The bill would also establish annual inflationary increases to Medicaid reimbursement rates for home- and community-based service providers, July 1, 2021. The legislation would require the Department for Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL) to set up a process for registering all business organizations providing in-home services to older Vermonters not covered by Medicaid. The bill creates a Self-Neglect Working Group to provide recommendations regarding adults who, due to physical or mental impairment or diminished capacity, are unable to perform essential self-care tasks. Testimony has just begun in the committee and continues.

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