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New Contract Would Reduce Service Hours Of Phone Support Line For Mainers' Mental Health Issues

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A statewide phone support line for people with mental health issues will be reduced from a 24-hour service to a seven hour daily service next year under a proposed new state contract. The proposed change is drawing criticism and concern from the mental health community.

The Intentional Warm Line offers peer-to-peer phone support for people facing non-crisis mental health situations. Simonne Maline of the Consumer Council System of Maine, which represents mental health consumers, says it gets a lot of use.

"The warm line currently takes 25- to 30,000 calls a year,” Maline says. “And that's with only two staff on during the day and evening, and one on the overnight."

Maline says it's a vital service in particular for people who live in rural areas and have limited access to transportation. That's why she's concerned that the state plans to reduce its hours of operation by two-thirds, limiting them to the hours between 5:00 pm to midnight.

No one from DHHS was available for an interview, but in an email, a spokesperson said that the Department is taking feedback about its proposal under review.

The healthcare provider Sweetser is the current operator of the warm line, and it says the annual cost is $435,000.