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Professional News
Mental Health Advocate Digs Up the Dirt
Psychiatric News
Volume 37 Number 18 page 10-10

As the lead spokesperson and organizer of the coalition fighting Fletcher Allen’s plan to isolate the psychiatric service, Anne B. Donahue would prove to be the hospital’s most dreaded adversary and mental health’s greatest ally.

Donahue is a self-described psychiatric survivor, having long battled recurrent major depression. An attorney and fierce advocate for mental health care, she is described as a major driving force behind the passage of Vermont’s groundbreaking mental health parity law in 1997 and is editor of the advocacy group Vermont Psychiatric Survivors’ consumer newspaper, Counterpoint.

During her work fighting Fletcher Allen Health Care (see story above), Donahue uncovered documentation that landed the hospital in extensive regulatory peril.

In addition to being instrumental in persuading the state to disapprove of the hospital’s plan to isolate the psychiatry service, she discovered and publicized intricate financial arrangements the hospital had set up in an apparent attempt to skirt state approval for a parking garage expected to cost $55 million and a software package costing in excess of $9 million. The state fined the hospital on the garage project and halted the installation of the software.

As a result, Fletcher Allen CEO William Boettcher, who was accused of ordering the end-run around state regulators and had been an outspoken critic of the coalition of mental health advocates, was placed on administrative leave, and the hospital’s board began an extensive investigation. Soon after, the state attorney general, state auditor, and the U.S. attorney’s office, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission, announced they were investigating Fletcher Allen’s financial practices. In addition, the bonds used to finance the entire project were placed on credit watch by more than one Wall Street bond-rating firm.

Donahue is now a candidate for the Vermont state legislature and in July was nominated by the VPA for the Vermont Medical Society’s Citizen of the Year Award for her "extensive history of successful advocacy efforts and her dedication to ensuring that patients have access to high-quality psychiatric care."

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