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Journal Tribune
Updated May 18, 2019
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Mills adds child welfare caseworkers, opioid crisis to budget request

“This change package prioritizes pressing investments needed to protect children’s safety, to repair crumbling schools, to pay back the previous administration’s debt, and to save money in the event of an economic downturn,” Mills, a Democrat, said in a statement. “These changes address critical needs, reflect decisions made in the first four months, and build on my pragmatic budget proposal to deliver a solid economic foundation and the initiatives Maine people want and our state needs. I look forward to working with lawmakers as the budget process begins in earnest.”

The additional funding is based on the Maine Revenue Forecasting Committee’s recent projection of an additional $120.5 million increase in general fund revenue, according to the statement.

The state’s system to protect children has come under fire since two children died from abuse in high-profile cases, and their parents or caretakers were charged with murder. This month, Shawna Gatto of Wiscasset was found guilty of depraved indifference murder of 4-year-old Kendall Chick, who was in Gatto’s home. Another murder case related to the death of Marissa Kennedy, a 10-year-old Stockton Springs girl, is pending. Sharon Carrillo, the girl’s mother, and Julio Carrillo, her stepfather, have been charged with murder.

Caseworkers in the Maine Department of Health and Human Services have told the Press Herald that they feel overwhelmed by the number of cases that they have to manage. The amendments to the budget, if approved by the legislature, would add 43 caseworkers, 13 intake workers, and six background check staff to DHHS.

Other budget amendments include:

  • $5.5 million from the Fund for a Healthy Maine for the opioid crisis, including funding for school and community-based prevention programs.
  • Adding 48 staff for mental health services for the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center’s new facility in Bangor.
  • $20 million in one-time revenue for the School Revolving Renovation Fund to fix aging schools.
  • $15 million in one-time revenue to pay federal debts resulting from the decertification of Riverview Psychiatric Center.

“This represents a needed down payment toward the safety of Maine children, an investment in our mental health system, and a fresh start for Riverview Psychiatric Center,” said Jeanne Lambrew, DHHS commissioner, in a statement. “Improving the health and wellbeing of Maine people must remain at the forefront throughout the budget process, and we appreciate the Legislature’s thoughtful consideration of this proposal.”

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