Employee threatened: A mental health crisis could close Brandon library


BRANDON — Long simmering questions about the intersection of mental health services, community integration, and public safety have come to a head recently in the town of Brandon in a way that could cause the loss of essential community services, while also threatening personal safety.

At issue is the possible temporary closure of the Brandon Public Library and a threat to one of its employees.

On July 1, the Brandon Free Public Library (BFPL) was contacted by a representative of Rutland Mental Health Services (RMHS) informing them that one of their clients (who lives alone on Franklin Street — just a few doors down from BFPL — had threatened to rape one of BFPL’s staff members. The Brandon Police Department (BPD) was immediately contacted, and a subsequent No Trespass order was filed by BFPL. A separate Stalking Order was filed by the staff member in question.

RMHS’s client, who has legal protections under Vermont Act 248, already has four pending charges against him for assault, vandalism, resisting arrest, and sexual assault.

While Acting State’s Attorney Ian Sullivan was unable to comment on active cases, he did provide affidavits from each of the four pending cases against the individual in question.

The sexual assault affidavit, which stems from an incident that took place in Brandon on June 19, 2019, involving the individual’s caretaker, contains a statement from BPD officer Michael Von Schleusinger which includes the following:

“He said that he had committed a similar offense about 10 years ago, in which he was charged and went to jail and then to a retreat.

When Cpl. Murach asked [the individual] if he had urges to rape people, he said “yes”. [sic] [The individual] said he thought about raping a few girls who he saw walking in Rutland. He described one as having red hair, wearing a black skirt and another as a female who had a tattoo on her leg. During processing, [the individual] repeatedly stated that he wanted to rape someone and that he wasn’t done doing it.”

In an affidavit from an assault charge dating to April 25, 2021—in which the individual, who is part of the Rutland Specialized Community Care Program, is said to have thrown objects into Franklin Street and later attempted to attack a man with a curtain rod as he tried to clear the debris from the roadway before being subdued by police—BPD Officer Jonathan Butterfield reported the following during an interview conducted with the individual’s caretaker present:

“[The individual] admitted his actions had been triggered because he was tired of the “state” program running his life. He felt he should be able to make his own decisions and said he would not comply with the rules any longer. He said if he went home he would continue to reoffend. [the individual] even expressed to me that he wanted to be held accountable for his actions. He said anyone else who did these things would be in jail.”

According to BPD Chief David Kachajian, the individual in question has had no less than 90 incidents that involved BPD dating back to 2015, including 12 this past June alone. Former police chief Christopher Brickell also flagged the individual in 2020 for using BFPL’s WiFi to download rape porn from outside the building.

Per the April 25, 2021 affidavit, the individual in question had been on 24/7 care. However, members of BPD and BFPL claim that he is no longer receiving that care, as many of them have observed the individual in unsupervised situations.

When approached for questions by The Reporter about the care provided, RMHS’s CEO Dick Courcelle issued the following statement:

“While certain information may be circulating in the community and thereby considered “public,” that does not change how federal and state privacy laws and regulations limit what RMHS, as a covered entity under these laws and regulations, can disclose to you for publication. There are certain instances where we can and, in fact, may be compelled to make disclosures, but responding to questions from a reporter does not fall within those exceptions.”

An email obtained by The Reporter from Courcelle to BFPL would seem to indicate that 24/7 care is no longer being provided to the individual in question, as Mr. Courcelle wrote: “We are acting as expediently as possible to provide increased supports to this individual—including but not limited to, focused supports when the library is open.”

“This gentleman fell through the cracks,” said Kachajian. “He can’t be living by himself—he has to be on constant supervision.”

As for the library, they recently held a board meeting to determine the best plan of action and to listen to a statement from the staff member against whom the rape threats were made. RMHS was invited to the meeting but chose not to attend.

The staff member in question, who is currently on paid leave, spoke bravely and impassionedly, reading from a prepared statement in which they outlined their safety concerns, which included specifications for what would need to happen for them to feel comfortable returning to work.

The staff member, who is also a survivor of previous physical and sexual assault, asserted their desire to have the individual removed from the community or for the library to hire security—baring that, said the staffer—who is properly trained to handle a firearm due to their previous trauma—they would only feel comfortable at work if allowed to carry a concealed weapon.

Following a spirited and compassionate discussion from BFPL board members (who had already moved to put the staffer on paid leave after trying without luck to find licensed security for BFPL), Acting State’s Attorney Ian Sullivan, BPD Chief Kachajian, and several members of the public discussed RHMS’s role in this incident and its absence from the meeting.

“I wouldn’t want us to assume that they don’t want to be here, but I do want to recognize that they do have a lot of restrictions about what they can say about this person in public because of HIPAA,” said Board Chair David Roberts in an attempt to dispel conjecture. “I’m not making excuses, but I just wanted to put that in the record.”

Sullivan echoed that sentiment to a degree. “I spoke with their outside counsel,” he said. “And I think the concern that you identified is one that, if they were here, they might have said. One can always listen, though.”

Following the meeting, the board met in executive discussion, at which time it chose not to allow the staffer to bring a concealed firearm into the library, choosing instead to keep them on paid leave while it continued its work to find a resolution either via RMHS or through hiring licensed security.

“I want the people here to feel as safe as possible,” said Roberts.

Library Director Molly Kennedy noted, however, that BFPL had recently lost another member of its staff and that the library would more than likely be forced to close temporarily, if not indefinitely, due to the sudden lack of staff. “As it is,” she said, “I’ve been unable to do any library work since this started.”

The library is not the only community service affected by the ongoing issues stemming from the individual on Franklin Street.

The Brandon Police Department must respond to any call at that residence, calls that, according to Chief Kachajian, are often nothing more than a case of someone saying they’re suicidal when what they want is to be in a different situation.

“He’s told all my officers he doesn’t want to be in Brandon,” he said, speaking of the litany of BPD interactions which often end in temporary hospitalization of the individual but come at the expense of the town’s resources, including ambulance rides and work hours for EMTs and police alike—time that might come at the expense of other police work and other people’s health.

“He says he’s bored… and just wants to go down to the hospital in Rutland,” Kachajian said.

Chief Kachajian also said RMHS hasn’t been much help dealing with the individual either.

“We really haven’t had much luck with them,” he said. “More often than not, they call us to deal with him. For whatever reason, the system has failed these people.”

“We have a long-term need to fix an immediate problem,” said Rep. Stephanie Zak Jerome about the ongoing situation. “We all know there’s a mental health crisis in the state. There’s not a facility to take care of someone who can’t be put in jail and can’t be put in a hospital.”

“I will do what I can to see what can be done with this,” she continued. “I want to find out where we are in creating more psychiatric beds. We need a facility to help the individual and the community.”

When asked to gauge his level of concern about the safety of both the individuals in question and that of the community, Chief Kachajian said, “It’s hard to tell. A lot balances on what happens to him.”

If you or anyone you know are experiencing difficulties with the mental health system and would like to share your story, please contact The Reporter via email at: news@brandonreporter.com. Anonymity will be respected.

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