Archive for October 15th, 2013

Maine’s First Family Hosts 3rd Annual Blaine House Food Drive, Gives Personal Tours to Visitors

Posted on October 15, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

The First Family is hosting the Third Annual Blaine House Food Drive on three consecutive Saturdays during the month of October: Oct. 12, Oct. 19 and Oct. 26 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mainers will have an opportunity to bring a food donation, receive a tour of the Blaine House led by Governor Paul R. LePage and enjoy light refreshments.

foodLePage has also issued a “Food Drive Challenge” to Maine Chambers of Commerce. In a letter issued to the chambers, the governor encouraged participation in a local food drive throughout the month of October. Chambers that participate will have a chance to host a “Business After Hours” event at the Blaine House.

    “As our holiday season approaches, it is very important that we remember those who are less fortunate,”
    LePage said in a release. “The first lady and I will be hosting Blaine House food drives, but I am encouraging local chambers to get involved and help out their local food pantries or homeless shelters.”

    “We are a small state with big hearts,”
    said the governor’s wife, Ann LePage. “In our family, we have taught our children that giving is more important than receiving. Giving money is great, but giving your time is just as valuable. So we encourage Mainers to consider volunteering at a shelter, food pantry or soup kitchen. It’s a great gift to give.”

lepage blaineWhile all offerings are gratefully accepted, there is a great need for infant formula and baby food this year according to First Lady Ann LePage.

Gov. Paul LePage provided history lessons about some of the artifacts found within the Blaine House while leading tours during the open house and in this photo, sat at former Maine Governor James Blaine’s senatorial desk in the Blaine Study.

Besides being a Senator, Blaine was Speaker of the House, an 1884 Republican presidential candidate, US Secretary of State and part-owner of the Kennebec Journal. Among the room’s artifacts is a hand-written note on the back of a business card given to Blaine by President Abraham Lincoln dated April 7, 1865. The note was to ensure Blaine safe passage from DC’s City Point to Richmond and back during wartime.

sideGovernor LePage took the visitors into another room with a billiards table and spoke of playing a game against a visiting professional player from Finland. He also showed a rather new piece to the room- a handsome oak sideboard made by LePage himself back in the 1980s. Apparently wood working has been a hobby of his for 35 years.

This past Saturday marked the first of the three weekends set aside for the donations. The food, said Lauren LePage, the governor’s daughter and assistant to his chief of staff, will go to the Auburn-based Good Shepherd Food Bank, which will distribute the food where it is most needed statewide. According to both Governor Paul and First Lady Ann LePage, the first open house day saw a much heavier volume of generous donations than in past years with the Governor remarking that in the past, the last day has usually seen the most visitors.

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Emergency Hearing on Riverview Psychiatric Center Held; Dems Voice Concerns

Posted on October 15, 2013. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew talks with Rep Dennis Keschl (R-Belgrade) prior to emergency meeting with AFA and HHS committees.

DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew talks with Rep Dennis Keschl (R-Belgrade) prior to emergency meeting with AFA and HHS committees.

Last Wednesday, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew met with a joint session of the members of the 125th Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs (AFA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) Committees to discuss what lead to the federal government’s $20 million defunding of Maine’s Riverview Psychiatric Center. According to the feds, the decision to pull funding was based upon the center’s failure to comply with safety standards. The LePage administration received notification on October 2nd (letter dated September 27) of the decision by Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) in a 17 page document which detailed concerns going back to March of this year.

In late August, legislators passed emergency measure LD 1515, “An Act To Increase the Availability of Mental Health Services” designed to correct the safety and understaffing issued raised by CMS. In early September, the administration repeatedly assured lawmakers that this measure to expand the Maine State Prison’s mental health unitwould address the federal government’s concerns by reducing the patient load at Riverview. But that was not the case, as CMS terminated its $20 million funding to the psychiatric hospital following an unannounced site visit to the facility in mid-September. It cited ongoing operational, governance, and management deficiencies leading to safety concerns and human rights violations.

Here are links to some of the discussions between DHHS Commissioner Mayhew, legal counsel Ken Albert, and various members of the joint committees in their 3 1/2 hour long meeting.

Pt 1

Pt 2, Pt 3, Pt 4, Pt 5.

Afterwards, some lawmakers continued to voice concerns:

“Today’s meeting was about fulfilling the Legislature’s responsibility to work together with the Department in solving critical problems at Riverview. We expected to hear answers about how Riverview got here, why the Legislature was not kept in the loop, and what we must do going forward,” said Senator Dawn Hill of York, the Senate Chair of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee.

House Chair Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston expressed frustration with the lack of answers provided: “Today was a beginning but we still don’t have clear answers from the administration about how they’re going to fix this problem and how we’re going to pay for patient care in the interim.”

She continued: “Since March, I believe, the administration has known that funding for Riverview could be in jeopardy, but the Legislature was not informed until August,” Rotundo said. She said lawmakers were then told the bill to expand mental health services at the prison would correct those problems.

“And that we would be kept in the loop in terms of what was happening at Riverview,” Rotundo said. “But since then the Legislature was not informed that CMS had been to Riverview to do the survey.”

Representative Mike Carey of Lewiston: “This comes down to staffing and money. This is what it will take to ensure the safety of the workers and to help the patients who go to Riverview to get better. But if we are going to get this done, we need direct answers and more timely information from the administration.”

AFA Committee member Senator Emily Cain of Orono: “We are all pulling for the same positive outcome. We have a responsibility for, and care deeply about the patients and staff and Riverview, and the budget implications of this crisis. And it is in the spirit of resolution that we are here today seeking answers that are long overdue.”

Mayhew responded to all: “It is unfortunate that we must continue to spend additional financial and staff resources to appeal the decision and reapply for certification. I remain confident, however, that Riverview Psychiatric Center will be recertified by CMS and will receive necessary funding for critical psychiatric services for the people of the state of Maine.”

It is still unclear what the next steps beyond the state applying for recertification will be, if there will be more discussion within the Legislature at this point and how the ongoing federal government shutdown will affect this situation and the funding woes at Riverview.

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