October 10, 2013

Funding loss for Maine psych center scrutinized

Lawmakers question Maine state officials, with one denying the federal government’s claims that his auditors were too lenient.

By Steve Mistler smistler@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew listens to a question from a legislator Wednesday during a joint hearing of the Health and Human Services and Appropriations committees at the State House in Augusta about the potential loss of $20 million in federal funding for the state’s Riverview Psychiatric Center. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services made the decision to terminate Riverview’s funding after finding in two surveys that the hospital did not comply with federal guidelines for staffing and governance.

Staff photo by Andy Molloy

click image to enlarge

This 2012 photo shows the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta. Patient advocacy groups have often complained that staffing at Riverview is inadequate, particularly for forensic patients.

Staff photo by Joe Phelan

Federal auditors accompanied state regulators “to mitigate” those concerns, but Roberson apparently remained unconvinced.

In the memo, Albert directed his frustration at a federal employee at the regional office in Boston, who he said failed to defend the state auditors.

He wrote that the “integrity of our state/federal relations has been challenged not so much by what you and your team said, rather by what you failed to say ... I will not soon forget.”

Albert wrote that he was insulted by claims that his auditors were biased and that they hadn’t taken “a more aggressive technical assistance and enforcement posture with Riverview to bring them into compliance sooner.”

Albert, who attended Wednesday’s briefing of the Appropriations Committee, defended his memo. Mayhew said little about it.

Afterward, she said the DHHS is pushing the federal government for an expedited appeal of its funding decision – made more difficult by the partial shutdown of the federal government.

The loss of funding has raised questions about Riverview’s financial capacity to admit new civilian patients. The hospital will be reimbursed only for patients who arrived before Sept. 2 – the cutoff for federal dollars. If the state wins its appeal, reimbursements could be retroactive, according to Mayhew.

Asked how long the state can fund the hospital before rejecting patients, Mayhew said incoming patients are evaluated on an “individual basis.”

“We are looking at the budget for the hospital and all the resources within the department to ensure that we are able to appropriately serve the patients that are at Riverview today,” she said.

Democratic lawmakers, however, said they still didn’t know whether the department has a long-term fix for the hospital.

“We heard a lot of detail, we didn’t here a lot of answers,” Carey said. “She talked a lot about how the department is managed but not what the dates are, who’s responsible and how much money it’s going to cost to fix the problems that the federal government says that Riverview has.

“It’s going to cost the state a lot of money,” he said.

Steve Mistler can be contacted at 791-6345 or at: smistler@pressherald.com

Twitter: @stevemistler

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