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Malory Shaughnessy is the executive director of the Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services in Maine and a task force member. Shaughnessy says one of the biggest challenges is the low level of Medicaid reimbursement for behavioral-health treatment.
“We have empty beds in our residential treatment units because reimbursement rates have not kept up and they cannot afford to hire staff to staff those beds,” says Shaughnessy.
She claims there are currently thirty-five to forty empty beds because of this workforce shortage.
Shaughnessy notes that reimbursement rates for behavioral health services from MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program, haven’t changed since the minimum wage was $5 to $6 an hour. Now it’s $12 an hour.
So, because these facilities can’t afford to hire staff, Shaughnessy says too many youths are waiting for addiction and mental-health treatment.
“Youths that are prescribed 20 hours of intensive treatment for six months get maybe 10 hours or get none at all,” says Shaughnessy. “Or we have over 500 kids at various times, of youth on waiting lists for this treatment.”