A Hallowell behavioral health provider abruptly closed its doors last week, leaving about 300 clients such as those treated for opioid addiction in search of treatment and new providers.

Protea Integrated Health and Wellness LLC, at 52 Water St., closed Sept. 30 after giving just a few days’ notice to its staff and clients, according to a public relations officer for the Maine branch of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“Everyone was told to find a new provider,” said NAMI Maine’s Sophie Gabrion, a former Hallowell city councilor. “Two people I communicated with were given prescriptions that would last no more than a month and were told to find a new provider.”

The agency’s LinkedIn page says that it is “currently accepting referrals” for medication management, substance abuse treatment and management, substance abuse therapy, mental health therapy and community integration. The provider was known for its program involving Suboxone, a drug used to treat people with opioid addiction.

Staff “bolted” from the facility the day it closed, Gabrion said, citing someone who was there.

“It’s next to impossible to find a new provider, and it’ll be next to impossible for the staff to find new jobs,” Gabrion said.

Julie Rabinowitz, the director of policy, operations and communications for the Maine Department of Labor, said by email that the agency’s rapid response team has been in touch with the company, but she could not provide further details.

Gabrion said finding a new provider will be a real challenge to the 300 or so clients of Protea because “medication-assisted treatment is not something (there) is a lot of in the state.”

A behavioral health provider closing its doors without much notice isn’t as uncommon as one might think, Gabrion said. Different providers come and go based on reimbursement or funding, and all of those things can affect providers, especially one serving 300 people.

Last spring, Merrymeeting Behavioral Health Associates in Brunswick closed its doors a week earlier than expected after what the executive director of the agency called a “media frenzy.” Executive Director James Talbot originally planned the closure based on changes implemented by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to Section 17, a part of the MaineCare program that provides community support services to the mentally ill.

In 2006, Sweetser, a comprehensive behavioral health organization, acquired a business called Protea, which had a location in Hallowell until June 2007.

Susan Pierter, director of communications and public relations for Sweetser, said in an email that the company “has absolutely no affiliation or interest in the organization that has most recently operated” as Protea.

Protea in Hallowell has what appears to be an unofficial Facebook page that hasn’t been updated since July 2015. A call to a phone number found through a Google search did not connect.

Gabrion said that because of the state’s opioid crisis, finding a new provider for anything related to behavioral health is a major challenge: “When you add in the Suboxone component, there will be a significant number of people who are going to struggle to find a new provider.”

The people receiving services at Protea were in recovery and trying to maintain sobriety, Gabrion said, and it seems like they were left to deal with withdrawal all weekend.

The building at 52 Water St. was auctioned on Sept. 20. Gabrion said the building was owned by someone from out of state and was often changing hands.


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