Maine governor set on privately run psychiatric home
AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Republican Gov. Paul LePage's administration has released details about plans to build a privately run, state psychiatric residence in Bangor without legislative oversight.
The secure residence would house people who've been through the judicial system but courts have ruled they aren't responsible for crimes due to mental illness.
A recently released request for proposals says the 21-bed building would be completed by March 2019 with a developer chosen by mid-August. A private operator would run the facility under a 10-year contract.
Advocates for those with mental illnesses are now examining the plan. That includes retired Chief Justice Daniel Wathen, who oversees the state's obligation to ensure people treated for mental illness receive appropriate care.
Wathen said the contract includes important answers to questions that advocates and lawmakers have, but said his focus will be whether staffing levels are adequate at a secure facility that will be staffed round-the-clock.
He noted the contract would include performance standards, a grievance process and a prohibition on the use of seclusion or restraint on residents.
"I think there's a fair amount of uncertainty about it, but we'll wait and see what develops," he said.
Patients at Riverview Psychiatric Center who no longer need hospital-level care and could live at the home had been waiting months for updates from the state, Simonne Maline, the executive director of a state-funded advocacy group for people with mental illness, has said.
The forensic residence has been caught up in a political dust-up between LePage, who wanted to move forward with a facility in Augusta, and lawmakers who wanted more details and oversight. LePage said he changed the location of the proposed building to Bangor to avoid lawmakers' oversight of buildings constructed in a special zone in Augusta.
Democratic Rep. Drew Gattine said it's time to put political differences aside. His bill would direct the state to operate and build the home near Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta, as the LePage administration originally proposed.
LePage didn't respond to a request for comment on the bill.
"There are people in the hospital who are actually success stories" following years of treatment, Gattine said. "Some have recovered, some have been there for decades. They have recovered to point where they don't need to be in hospital anymore and could be treated in a lesser setting."
The federal government recently ordered Maine to repay $51 million spent on the center since it lost certification.
Gattine and LePage have said that building the facility could be a key step to addressing the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' concerns about mixing psychiatric patients with residents who could live at the new secure home.