28 Years After Court Case, Maine Has Not Yet Fulfilled Its Promises For Mental Health Services

Aug 30, 2018

It’s been 28 years since the state of Maine agreed in Superior Court to provide adequate mental health services to Mainers. The court master in the case now says that while the state has made progress, it has not yet met its promises.

Former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Dan Wathen is the court master overseeing the implementation of the settlement of the lawsuit, which was first filed in 1989. In his report to the Superior Court, Wathen notes that positive steps, such as an increase in reimbursement rates for medication management services, are helping Mainers cope with their mental illness. He also says there continue to be problems.

“The access to services,” Wathen says. “Some services [are] more difficult to obtain than others…and the enforcement and management of the contracts that DHHS has.”

Wathen points out that most mental health services are not provided at state facilities by state workers, but are contracted through local hospitals and other mental healthcare providers. He says that there have been problems with the computer systems the state uses to monitor those purchased services.

And Wathen says the demand for mental health services, including those for the most acute cases, continues to increase.

“The ….wait list for folks to get into Riverview is…never been higher than it is right now,” he says.

Riverview is the state psychiatric hospital in Augusta.

The state also operates the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Hospital in Bangor and is building a 21-bed facility in Bangor, which Wathen says he hopes will help address the increased demand when it goes into operation months from now.

Originally published Aug. 29. 2018 at 4:29 p.m. ET.