Gov. Paul LePage returned to Maine from a March meeting in Washington, D.C., brimming with optimism. Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price, he said, was “very, very receptive” to his argument that the decertification of Riverview Psychiatric Center had been politically motivated.

“This is a move by the Obama administration to poke us in the eye,” LePage said of the 2013 federal action, which came after auditors found corrections officers hired by the hospital using stun guns and handcuffs to subdue patients, among other deficiencies. The new administration would not be so vengeful, he promised. “I’m going to predict that they’re going to be sensible, common-sense people and we’re going to get Riverview re-certified.”

Ten months later, however, Riverview remains decertified, and LePage says Maine soon may have to pay back the $51 million in federal money it has spent on Riverview since decertification.

What’s changed?


Well, in some ways, nothing. Riverview got rid of the corrections officers following the initial audit, but in the time since other problems have surfaced, including low morale caused by staff shortages and forced overtime, and a failure to properly document treatment.


The hospital has made great strides, but some issues persist. No one with any real perspective believes that the decertification was anything but prudent, so it’s no surprise it hasn’t been overturned.

But in that time, Maine voters, over LePage’s strenuous objections and multiple vetoes, approved Medicaid expansion. The governor’s comments on Riverview funding come as the Legislature begins debate on how to pay for it. In this fight, clearly it is to his benefit to make the funding picture look as grim as possible.

What’s more, in issuing his warning, LePage placed the blame on lawmakers.

We’ve gone over the governor’s failings on Riverview, and we don’t need to do it in detail again. Suffice it to say that when he has offered plans for fixing the hospital, they largely have been full of holes. Those that weren’t poorly conceived represented significant changes in how mentally ill patients in state care were handled, yet the administration refused to address valid concerns.


In the process, LePage has drawn criticism from Democratic and Republican lawmakers, as well as municipal officials in Augusta and Bangor. At some point, he should have come to the realization that the problem was with himself, not his political opponents.


Riverview broke on his watch, and for nearly five years he has botched its repair. Yet he still cannot accept responsibility.

The governor cannot run from that, nor should he be allowed to use his failures with Riverview to stop Medicaid expansion.

The claim that the loss of federal funding for the psychiatric hospital should hinder providing health-care coverage to about 80,000 low-income Mainers who need it is part of a larger argument about state resources that just doesn’t add up.

In trying to stop Medicaid expansion, LePage has misrepresented the program, and its costs and benefits. After fighting fiercely against efforts to pass expansion through the Legislature, he was defeated soundly at the polls, and now he is throwing every criticism he can muster against the wall.

Ten months after falsely accusing the Obama administration of playing politics with Riverview, LePage is using the hospital in his own game.

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