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Bourgoin case raises questions about UVM, mental health screening

UVM Medical Center emergency room entrance. Photo by Andrew Kutches/VTDigger
Photo by Andrew Kutches/VTDigger
In the aftermath of the deadly Williston car crash on Oct. 8 questions are being raised about screening processes and the shortage of mental health services in Vermont communities.

By Morgan True and

Elizabeth Hewitt

For Vermont Digger

In the aftermath of a deadly Williston crash Oct. 8 involving a wrong-way driver on I-89, questions have been raised about how health care providers screen people seeking treatment.

Steven Bourgoin, 36, sought help at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington just hours before he drove at a high rate of speed on Interstate 89 in the wrong direction on Oct. 8, ultimately killing five teenagers on the highway in Williston.

Court documents filed in the case suggest that staff at the UVM Medical Center contacted Howard Center about Bourgoin, the agency designated to provide mental health services for the region, on the morning of the crash.

But the Howard Center said in a statement that their own internal investigation revealed Bourgoin was not, in fact, ever referred to them for screening.

The social service nonprofit, which has a $90 million state contract to provide mental health, substance abuse and disability services in Chittenden County, said that Steven Bourgoin also was not a client prior to the incident, and that at no point was he referred to them by any other organization.

Bourgoin, who pleaded not guilty to murder and minor vehicle charges was seen on security video cameras entering and exiting the emergency room at the UVM Medical Center three times Saturday morning over the course of a few hours —the same day he allegedly entered Interstate 89 going north in the southbound lanes.

In a sworn affidavit establishing probable cause for the motor vehicle related charges, which the state filed days before the murder charges, State Police Det. Benjamin Katz wrote that, “I later called the Howard Center and learned that they were called but did not screen [Bourgoin].”

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