June 22, 2013

Future unclear for Maine dental clinic for mentally ill

Officials await a signed budget from the state before they set up a new clinic after the Portland one shuttered due to budget uncertainties.

By JOE LAWLOR Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

In this January 2013 file photo, dental hygienist Torey Richard conducts a teeth cleaning for patient Rick Hagan at Clinical Services in Portland. While the Maine Legislature restored $1.6 million to fund dental services for the mentally ill, the Portland clinic that patients went to has closed, and the service faces an uncertain future.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

Towle, who now works in Augusta, said he believes the state might have been able to find a recent dental school graduate to fill in for a few months.

Martins, in an email response to a question, said that while it's true the state didn't advertise for dentists, it was more focused on a longer-term solution. And, Martins said, there were other reasons for closing the clinic.

Martins said the dental clinic didn't fit the mission of Riverview Psychiatric Center, which is focused on meeting the mental health needs of its patients, not dental services. And, he said, in most cases DHHS does not directly provide services, but rather contracts out services for the public.

Also, for the few hundred dental patients who needed to be sedated in order to receive care, the Preble Street location was inadequate and did not meet federal building requirements, Martins said. The sedation services are now in Bangor.

Exactly where the non-sedation dental services for the bulk of the 3,000 patients will be located is still being worked out, Martins said, as Community Dental determines how to expand its clinics to meet a new influx of patients. A state official told the Press Herald last week that Community Dental would offer the service at clinics in Biddeford, Augusta and Bangor.

Martins said, however, that a Portland location is still possible. They're also still waiting to see what happens with the state budget.

Cole said if there's no Portland location, it would be difficult for many patients, who lack transportation and money.

"Many of them walk to the clinic," Cole said.

Martins said the state is also working with Community Dental to open up some Saturday appointments during the transition.

 

Joe Lawlor can be reached at 791-6376 or at

jlawlor@pressherald.com

Twitter: @joelawlorph

 

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