From Augusta

Lawmakers vote against Beebe-Center bill to preserve Maine’s community mental health system

Posted:  Friday, December 1, 2017 - 10:30am

AUGUSTA – A bill by Rep. Anne "Pinny" Beebe-Center to preserve Maine's community mental health system in the state will not receive consideration by the full Legislature after Republican members of Legislative Council voted against the measure.

"Maine's community mental health system is the bedrock of keeping people with mental illness safe, supported and receiving best services for recovery," said Beebe-Center, D-Rockland, in a news release. "There have been funding challenges in the past, but now we are facing a crisis. For most people in our rural state, this network of community providers is their only access to care – care that keeps them in their communities. This network is at risk of falling apart."

Beebe-Center's bill would have increased compensation for direct-care workers. Statewide, there is at least a 12-percent vacancy rate for the direct care positions that are most critical to the success of clients.

This is creating a problem for access to services, consistency of services and quality of services. The lack of workers leads to longer waiting lists and forces people to get expensive care in emergency rooms, or they end up in jail at a much higher cost where they receive little to no services.

Behavioral health agencies in the community mental health system offer a variety of services including crisis stabilization, peer support and substance abuse counseling, therapy and treatment.

"I am extremely disappointed that this bill will not receive consideration before the Legislature," Beebe-Center said. "With the opioid crisis impacting nearly every family in Maine today, we need to meet the rising need for treatment."

According to the Maine Attorney General's office, 185 Mainers died of a drug overdose in the first six months of this year. In 2016, the total number of deaths was 376.

Beebe-Center is a member of the Legislature's Task Force to Address the Opioid Crisis in the State as well as the Committee on State and Local Government. She is serving her second term in the House and represents Rockland and Owls Head.