“…Malory Shaughnessy, director of the Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services, Maine, acknowledged the systemic improvements being implemented by the administration. But she said it was “really disconcerting” not to hear the governor talk about about the immediate challenge of keeping people alive.
“They’re looking at big picture, big fixes which are longer-term responses, which are great and we totally support those,” Shaughnessy said. “But they’re missing the serious crisis that’s on the ground right now and not addressing that and that’s disappointing and concerning.”
The Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Coalition issued a press release last week. The coalition acknowledged the administration’s efforts, but called on Mills and lawmakers to support four bills they believe will not only help address substance use and the lack of mental health services, which is causing people to remain in hospital emergency departments rather than in more appropriate community settings.
The bills – L.D.s 415, 432, 496 and 582 – are bipartisan, they say, and would cost the state about $16.5 million. The bills would increase rates for targeted case management services for substance use treatment, improve behavioral health for children, ensure timely access to mental health services for children, and support community treatment options.
“This is a moment where we could really move forward in leaps and bounds in how we address substance use disorder and mental health and if we don’t do it, it’s (a) real missed opportunity,” coalition spokesperson Betsy Sweet said in an interview at the State House as she was lobbying lawmakers.
Steven Michaud, director of the Maine Hospital Association, said his organization is supporting some of those bills. He said the strain being placed on hospital workers by people with behavioral health challenges has only gotten worse during the pandemic.
“It’s definitely one of the top three problems, and the word I would probably use is crisis,” Michaud said. “It’s enormous. It’s national. Everybody is dealing with it.”