AFA/ HHS Public Hearing LePage FY 2016/17 Biennial Budget, Day 5- Developmental Disabilities, Children & Adult Mental Health

Posted on March 8, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Public hearing before the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee regarding LR 1852 (Governor LePage’s proposed FY 2016-17 biennial budget), recorded 3/6/15.

Topics covered (summarized):

  • Developmental Disabilities
  • Brain Injury
  • Children’s Services
  • Children’s Mental Health
  • Medical Payments to Providers

    AFA/ HHS LR 1852 Public Hearing, Friday 3/6/15 (Pt 1)

    Return to editingAFA/ HHS LR 1852 Public Hearing, Friday 3/6/15 (Pt 2)

    AFA/ HHS LR 1852 Public Hearing, Friday 3/6/15 (Pt 3)

    AFA/ HHS LR 1852 Public Hearing, Friday 3/6/15 (Pt 4)

    AFA/ HHS LR 1852 Public Hearing, Friday 3/6/15 (Pt 5)

    AFA/ HHS LR 1852 Public Hearing, Friday 3/6/15 (Pt 6)

    AFA/ HHS LR 1852 Public Hearing, Friday 3/6/15 (Pt 7)

    AFA/ HHS LR 1852 Public Hearing, Friday 3/6/15 (Pt 8)

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  • AFA/ HHS Public Hearing LePage FY 2016/17 Biennial Budget, Day 3 (VIDEOS)- Methadone, Mental Health

    Posted on March 8, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

    Democrats responded via press release:

      The governor’s plan to make deep cuts in mental health services puts at-risk vulnerable Mainers by reducing the availability of vital services, increasing wait lists and pushing them toward crisis, according to testimony at public hearings before the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee.

      The governor’s proposed state budget would impose 10 percent across-the-board cuts in Medicaid behavioral and mental health services. The governor’s budget would also deal cuts of about 60 percent to some providers in the area of medication management, services now provided by psychiatrists and psychiatric nurses to ensure that patients are complying with their regimens and not in danger of potentially dangerous drug complications.

      In his testimony, Tom McAdam, chief executive of Kennebec Behavioral Health, referred to a 1996 tragedy in Waterville in which a severely mentally ill man bludgeoned to death two elderly nuns and left two others severely injured. He described how the case galvanized mental health services in Maine.

      “I think it had a fairly major impact on the entire system. I think that it helped to bring resources into the community-based side. And frankly, many of us that are in the provider community are confused by some of the initiatives in this budget because they kind of run counter to what we thought our role and responsibility (were) as community providers,” McAdam said. “Really, next to housing, for people to be successful med management – access to med management – is important. And we already have an access issue, and that really is especially true for the kids.”

      Democrats reaffirmed their commitment to a budget that protects the most vulnerable Mainers.

      “The governor’s cuts would shred our safety net. They would have devastating effects on some of our most vulnerable Mainers – those grappling with severe mental illness – as well as their families and communities. Slashing mental health services to this extent has grave implications for public health and public safety in Maine. It’s beyond irresponsible to play games with people’s lives and public safety like this. The governor has presented us with a series of false choices. We do not need to pit one group against another,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, House chair of the budget-writing committee.

      “The facts presented today over hours of testimony show that we must protect mental health services. These drastic cuts would prevent Mainers with mental illness from getting needed care and push them toward crisis. Providing sufficient services is not only compassionate, it makes economic sense. Severely mentally ill people who cannot access the services they need often wind up in emergency rooms or in jail, much more expensive and traumatic experiences that can be avoided,” said Sen. Linda Valentino, D-Saco, a member of the budget-writing committee.

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    LePage, Portland, Homeless Advocates Battle Over General Assistance

    Posted on March 8, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

    Sen. Justin Alfond, Sen. Anne Haskell, Rep. Mark Dion, Rep. Diane Russell, Rep. Drew Gattine , Rep. Peter Stuckey, Rep. Erik Jorgensen, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, Portland City Council Ed Suslovik, Preble St ED Mark Swann, and many others at 2/27/15 Oxford St Homeless Shelter press conference.

    Sen. Justin Alfond, Sen. Anne Haskell, Rep. Mark Dion, Rep. Diane Russell, Rep. Drew Gattine , Rep. Peter Stuckey, Rep. Erik Jorgensen, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, Portland City Council Ed Suslovik, Preble St ED Mark Swann, and many others at 2/27/15 Oxford St Homeless Shelter press conference.

    At the end of the coldest February on record in Maine, political leaders and homelessness advocates held a press conference in Portland to discuss the needs of some of the region’s most needy and address the attacks by the LePage administration regarding the city’s spending of General Assistance monies.

    A reminder: this is part of an ongoing legal battle between Portland/ Westbrook and the state over GA funds.

      Alfond, Portland Mayor Michael Brennan and others on hand at the shelter Friday said they can explain why Portland seems to have an outsized share of the state’s General Assistance allocation, but that they can’t get a prompt audience with LePage or DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew to discuss it.

      “We want the coordinated attacks on Portland to end, and the work to make our social services better to begin,”
      Alfond said, pointing out that Portland is not only an “outlier” in its distribution of General Assistance funds but also in that it represents an outsized share of the state’s economy.

      Alfond acknowledged Friday the audit was “troubling” and that Portland’s city officials and state representatives were eager to meet with the administration to discuss ways the city could better administer General Assistance. Brennan said he called the governor’s office on Monday to set up an appointment to discuss the audit.

      “I thought it was urgent, but the first date they gave me [for a meeting] was the end of March,” Brennan said Friday. “Obviously, it’s not as urgent to them as it is to us.”

    Governor LePage immediately fired back and issued the following statements via a press release:

      “My quarrel is not with the people who stayed at the shelter,” said Governor LePage. “Mental illness often plays a role there. It’s a matter of who pays. The City of Portland knew these people had this money in the bank, but they decided to bill the taxpayers anyway for years’ worth of welfare reimbursement. Municipalities complain about losing revenue sharing, but then I see abuse like this. When municipalities set priorities that unfairly burden Maine property taxpayers, it’s hard to have sympathy for them. Tax relief should go directly to the property taxpayer, not to fund more government. That’s why my tax reform plan gives money directly to the Maine people by tripling property tax fairness credits, doubling the homestead exemption for those over 65 and significantly lowering income tax rates. The most recent news out of Portland shouldn’t surprise anyone, but it serves as an example of why Maine needs real tax reform.”

    This weekend, State Senator Anne Haskell (D-Portland) responded to the governor and administration via the Democratic radio address:

      At 8 p.m. last night it was 12 degrees. And it’s March–not January. Together we’ve experienced one of the longest, most frigid, and snowiest winters in history.

      Good Morning. This is State Senator Anne Haskell of Portland. And, I don’t really want to talk about the weather. But I do want each of us to stop for a second and think about a time this winter: Think about the ten minutes it took you to walk from your office to your car on a blustery cold day. Your cheeks froze. Your fingers and toes hurt and you couldn’t wait to seek shelter from the wind.

      What if you didn’t have a home. If you didn’t have a place where you could crank the heat, pull up the blankets, and settle in with a cup of tea.

      What if, at sun down, you had stand in line for hours with the hopes–not the guarantee–that you could get a mat to sleep on at a shelter. A mat, by the way, that is only three inches thick. A mat that is placed in an open room–flanked on each side by strangers–only five inches from you. Clutching all that belongs to you, in a bag or a backpack.

      Mark Swann, executive director of Preble Street Homeless Shelter: We are just trying to keep people alive

      Mark Swann, executive director of Preble Street Homeless Shelter: We are just trying to keep people alive

      Mark Swann, the executive director at Preble Street in Portland, said, one day this winter, there were 282 people who showed up for one of the 142 mats. The math on this one is easy: 140 people were left to find shelter elsewhere that night. Some slept on the floor of the soup kitchen down the street. Others, had to sit up in chairs all night at city offices. And, a few others waited at the shelter–hoping a mat would open up. One person waited 11 hours; only to lay his head for two hours before the morning came, and the shelter closed for the day.

      Who chooses this?

      The answer is, nobody.

      Nobody chooses to be homeless. Nobody chooses to be mentally ill. Not one of the 282 people who lined up at the Oxford Street Shelter that night was trying to get away with something. Nobody working at the shelter or the city who is trying to provide life-saving shelter is trying to get away with something.

      At its core, this service of providing EMERGENCY shelter is serving the most basic and fundamental and crucial needs of humanity.

      Yet, in recent weeks, it’s become a political football. The LePage administration has attempted to garner salacious headlines by vilifying the people who utilize the shelter, and also those who provide the service.

      It’s not an easy story to tell. Why? Because we are talking about mental illness. We are talking about diseases like Schizophrenia.

      Recently the City of Portland studied 30 of the so-called “long stayers” at the shelters. What did they find? All of them, 100% had serious and persistent mental health issues–often untreated. Some had money in the bank. Some even had thousands of dollars in the bank.

      What does this mean?

      It could mean many things.

      For some, it means that perhaps a special account was set up by family members to put money aside for them. Perhaps intended to pay for things like dental and medical care.

      For some, it could be the remnant of another time in their life–before they got sick.

      For all, it is money that–because of their psychosis, they are unable or unwilling to use.

      DSC_0132They are not staying at homeless shelters to save a buck. They are staying there because they believe staying at a shelter is the best option available to them.

      And…most importantly, they are not numbers on someone’s spreadsheet. They are our brothers and sisters, our parents, our aunts and uncles. They are our fellow human beings–living much more difficult lives than we can imagine.

      Mental illness is not easy to understand. But it is something that we all need to take a closer look at. We can’t be afraid of it. And most of all, we can’t play the blame-game–that serves no purpose other than to distract and delay from a meaningful solutions-based dialogue.

      Long before this administration, the mental health system in Maine has been broken. The overflowing shelters in our state is one symptom of that–as are our jails–that are also overflowing with people who would benefit more from mental health intervention and treatment.

      As a member of the Health and Human Services Committee and a former member of the state’s Criminal Justice Committee, I can tell you that there are dozens of lawmakers who are interested in solving this problem and helping our fellow Mainers who are suffering. But the first step toward a solution has to be one that is honest.

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