AUGUSTA — It’s been more than three months since Gov. Paul LePage said he would move forward with building a new state psychiatric facility without legislative approval, but mental health advocates are still waiting for the governor to move forward.
The secure residence would house people who’ve been through the judicial system but who courts have ruled aren’t responsible for crimes because of mental illness. LePage said the residence would provide urgently needed care to individuals who no longer need hospital-level treatment, while freeing up beds at the state’s Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.
LePage said in January he was “focused solely” on building the Bangor facility “as quickly as possible so those suffering from mental illness can be properly cared for.”
But patients at Riverview are on “pins and needles” waiting for updates from the state, said Simonne Maline, executive director of the Consumer Council System of Maine, a state-funded advocacy group for people with mental illness.
“This unfortunately is not an administration that works by bringing stakeholders together to develop plans for systems change,” Maline said.
Democrats blocked construction of a 21-bed building next to Riverview last year and claimed they had unanswered questions about plans for the residence. LePage said his administration would instead build the facility in Bangor to avoid legislative involvement, but said he’d answer questions at an appropriations committee hearing. He hasn’t yet done so.
Attorney General Janet Mills has said the project would need legislative approval no matter where it’s built.
The administration has been silent on its plans. Meanwhile, the property is listed as off-market, according to several online real estate listings.
The governor and his administration have said a private contractor would staff and manage the new residence, but no requests for a proposal have been released. The administration says existing state revenues will fund the $3.5 million facility.
LePage’s office and a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services didn’t respond to requests for comment over the course of two weeks.