Sweetser, a nonprofit community mental health provider, is discontinuing clinic-based mental health therapy at five locations in southern Maine in December.

Susan Pierter, spokeswoman for the Saco-based nonprofit, said in an email that clinics in Saco, Sanford, Brunswick, Lewiston and York will no longer offer the therapy, affecting about 450 people who receive the service.

An open letter from Jim Martin, Sweetser’s vice president of programs, said the decision was “incredibly difficult,” but that the company would work with patients to find other mental health service providers.

“Sweetser will be working closely with the 450 individuals currently receiving clinic-based therapy services to transition them to other available services in the community or with other providers,” Martin wrote. “Sweetser is committed to ensuring that all clients are appropriately notified and assisted with accessing other care as requested.”

Sweetser has about 20,000 patients across the state.

The change also will affect about 25 employees out of the nonprofit’s 950-employee workforce.

“Since we have close to 140 job openings, we are hopeful that staff will be retained within the organization,” Pierter said.

She said that reimbursement rates for mental health services from Medicaid and private insurance were not high enough for Sweetser to offer therapy services at the five clinics.

“Sweetser will continue to offer a wide array of therapy services in the community at public schools, independent affiliate offices, primary care practices and other sites,” Martin said in his letter.

Though its Brunswick office will no longer offer the clinic-based therapy, it will remain a major hub for other Sweetser services, Pierter said, including its mobile crisis unit, which meets families that have a family member with a mental health crisis to stabilize patients.

Comments are not available on this story.