January 3, 2012

For thousands of Maine residents, LePage proposal a 'disturbing' plan

About 6,000 people who live in private non-medical institutions will need to find somewhere else to live if the facilities close.

By Susan M. Cover scover@mainetoday.com
State House Bureau

(Continued from page 1)

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Residential treatment services funded by MaineCare.

Operated by agencies or facilities.

Licensed by the Maine DHHS.

Provide rehabilitative treatment to four or more residents.

Provide food, shelter and personal care.

Give treatment that is medically necessary.

The Winthrop facility expanded at that time, so roughly half of its beds are assisted living and half are nursing home beds, said Matthew Lessard, administrator of the center. Of the 24 assisted-living residents who now live there, 20 are on Medicaid and four are private payers.

If the facility loses all of its Medicaid patients, it could not afford to stay open for the four people who pay with their own money, Lessard said.

In addition to helping people take the right medications, staff helps residents bathe and get dressed and makes sure they are getting meals. In Winthrop, there's a day room where residents Skype with family or surf the Internet.

About half of those who live at each facility suffer from some form of dementia. Some -- like Hasty -- read daily newspapers, play bingo or attend church services. They can't live on their own, but they also don't need the kind of skilled medical care that's provided in a nursing home.

Hasty is a widow, and only one of her four children lives in the area. She doesn't know where she would live if the facility closes, and said nearly all of her fellow residents would have few options.

"That would be a drastic thing to do," she said. "I'd probably be under a bridge somewhere."

Lawmakers say they won't let that happen.

Martin said other states have figured out how to comply with federal rules and keep the facilities open, and Maine will too. He recognizes that the proposal has caused stress for those who live there.

"So many of them in those facilities are very alert," he said. "They read the newspaper and watch the news. How disturbing this must be for them."

Strang Burgess said the public outcry in opposition to the proposal, which has included calls to her home, has been loud and clear.

"To individuals in these situations," she said, "the message needs to be, 'We get it. We understand. We're working on it.' "

MaineToday Media State House Writer Susan Cover can be contacted at 620-7015 or at: scover@mainetoday.com


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