Committee tries to forestall Riverview funding cut

5:47 PM, Aug 27, 2013   |    comments
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AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Legislature will meet this Thursday to decide on a temporary fix to the crisis at the state's Riverview Psychiatric Hospital.

The hospital is facing a cutoff of up to $20 million in federal funding if it doesn't come up with an approved plan of major changes by September 2. Federal inspectors found a series of problems, including the use of jail guards and police officers with tasers to help control aggressive patients.

The Governor wants to move the most dangerous patients to a new, expanded mental health unit at the state prison. Leaders of Riverview and the Department of Corrections told legislators today the plan will help the hospital address some of the concerns of Federal CMS officials. The Department of Health and Human Services also wants to "de-certify" 20 beds at Riverview, meaning they would no longer be federally funded and therefore not subject to the same federal rules.

Legislators voiced support for the prison plan, but said it will not solve all the problems identified at Riverview. Mental health advocates, including the two patient advocates from Riverview, said there have been staffing cuts at the hospital since 2009 that reduced the number of people interacting with patients, and blamed that for part of the problem.

Legislators say they want a broader plan that the one proposed by the Governor, but also admitted there isn't enough time to get such a plan ready for action by the full Legislature this Thursday. That's when lawmakers will come to Augusta to vote on bonds, and is the only chance to vote on a Riverview bill prior to the Sept. 2 deadline. Legislators involved with today's meeting said they hope passing the limited changes in the Governor's proposal - or something similar - will send a signal to federal officials the state does intend to make the needed changes.





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