April 05, 2020

State mental health services plan OK’d

AUGUSTA – The state on Monday began implementing a newly approved plan to deliver mental health services in the state, bringing it closer to full compliance with a court decree, Maine human services Commissioner Brenda Harvey said.

The 101-page plan was approved Friday by former Maine Chief Justice Daniel Wathen, who is now court master overseeing the state’s compliance with a decree that sets guidelines for services for people with mental illness.

The 1990 consent decree resulted from a class action suit claiming that Maine had failed to provide adequate care for patients at Maine’s former state mental hospital, the Augusta Mental Health Institute. AMHI has been replaced by the Riverview Psychiatric Center, also in Augusta.

The newly approved plan, which has been in the works since 2003, establishes a new structure for mental health service delivery in Maine. It focuses on community service networks, performance requirements, flexible services and housing, and consumer councils and peer services.

Harvey said it also includes something that’s been missing in the past: a process or checklist to make sure the state complies with its service delivery plan.

“It doesn’t get us out of the consent decree, because we still have to demonstrate compliance,” said Harvey, who heads the Department of Health and Human Services.

Harvey said it also marks the first time the state, the attorney for plaintiffs, mental health consumers and service providers have all agreed on a comprehensive service delivery plan.

The new plan includes “a lot of enhancements of things we already do,” said Harvey. She described the timetable for implementation as “aggressive.”

“But people are so eager to implement it, there’s a sense of energy around both the plan and the opportunity to make it happen,” said Harvey. “It’s time to put away the pens and pencils, to roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

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