Augusta state Sen. Roger Katz, the assistant Republican leader, said the federal government’s decision to terminate approximately $20 million in funding for the Riverview Physchiatric Center was "premature, punitive and puts the care of some of our most vulnerable citizens at risk."

In a prepared statement, Katz also criticized legislative Democrats for using the issue to question the leadership of Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew.

"She has the toughest job in Maine and I am confident she is doing everything she can to solve the problem," Katz wrote.

The problems at Riverview are numerous, according to several audits by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which has identified a range of staffing and governance deficiences that have stripped the 92-bed facility of its funding. The agency earlier this year cited safety issues as well, but it’s move to terminate funding at Riverview appears more related to staffing, governance and record keeping.

Despite the hospital’s effort to correct the problems, Katz, along with Mayhew, believe the feds are moving the goalposts.  

"The edict from Washington’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is primarily grounded in its disapproval of the practice of some Riverview staff occasionally providing services to patients on the forensic wing and civil wing during the same shift," Katz said. "However, the federal government seems to be making up the rules as it goes along; I am told that there is no such prohibition articulated in CMS’s own regulations.  Moreover, it just makes common sense that, particularly in an emergency, staff would be available to go from one unit to the other within the same building."

Mayhew has said that she’s confident that the state will win its appeal, which is already in the works.