At the Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday, all seats were taken for the public hearing on L.D. 1737, a proposal by state Sen. Cathy Breen to increase MaineCare reimbursement rates for psychiatric medication management. Testimony lasted nearly four hours as community members, people living with mental health challenges, law enforcement, judges, doctors and behavioral health providers took turns at the podium telling the tale of a system coming undone.

Representatives of community-based providers like Spurwink spoke about running their medication management programs at an annual and growing loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, for as long as they could, before finally – and with tremendous heartache – shutting down this service

Others told the committee they were still hanging on – but barely – in the hopes that maybe this year is the year that policymakers finally hear them and the countless others who are clearly and repeatedly telling them that we need more, not less, proven, evidence-based medication management by psychiatric specialists. They are asking, practically begging, because they know how vital these services are and because they know the waiting, the suffering and the deaths of some of Maine’s most vulnerable people. And they are hanging on as costs and demand continue to increase, and as they watch their colleagues close and their waiting lists swell.

At one Maine agency alone, there is a waiting list of 1,200 adults and children, 700 covered under MaineCare. The average wait time is nearly three months.