PORTLAND — More than 150 at-risk people with mental disabilities are in need of support services after Shalom House ended its case management program earlier this month after nearly 30 years of operation.

Shalom House, which helps provide basic housing needs for adults with severe mental illness, would not comment on what the former clients will do now without the community integration services. However, Executive Director Mary Haynes-Rodgers said it is working to “transition them to other available services in the community.”

A number of organizations in the area, including Graham Behavioral Services, Sweetser, MAS Community Health and Catholic Charities of Maine offer similar programs. Only Catholic Charities of Maine may have capacity to serve a number of former Shalom House clients. Other agencies contact said they did not have the space or they would not comment.

Catholic Charities has a behavioral health home program, but “it is not the same as community integration, so it is hard to compare the two,” said Judy Katzel, communications director for Catholic Charities of Maine. “It’s more like apples to oranges.”

Community integration programs help individuals who are homeless or at risk of being homeless, at risk of involvement in the criminal justice system, have difficulty taking care of themselves or are at risk of medical or psychiatric hospitalization.

“So far looking at the Shalom House clients, 23 have been through the intake process of our behavioral home. We are continuing to look at others to see if they meet the qualifications for us to serve them,” Katzel said.

Other programs, including Sweetser, are at capacity already.

“Sweetser does not have the capacity to take referrals from Shalom House, as we currently have a waitlist of 22 people for the services,” said Communications Director Susan Pierter.

A representative of Graham Behavioral Services said the organization “had no comment” in terms of their capacity to take on new clients seeking community integration services.

At the time of its closure, the program, which Shalom House had offered for 28 years, was helping 170 clients with mental health issues live independently and manage things like finding housing, transportation and referrals to doctors and other services.

“This decision was not made easily and comes after several years of not only trying various internal strategies, but also fierce advocacy in Augusta with both (Department of Health and Human Services) and Legislators,” Haynes-Rodgers said in a statement. “The lack of a rate that covers the cost of providing this service, in conjunction with the ever-increasing administrative burdens and inability to hire individuals with the required certification are the driving factors behind this decision.”

 Shalom House, she added, is not closing “and will continue to provide all other mental health services and supportive housing programs, including all subsidy programs.”

“This has been an incredibly difficult time for everyone,” Haynes-Rodgers said, “especially those directly impacted by this decision. We want you to know this decision was only made when we could no longer find viable options to provide this service in a way that balanced the need for both high-quality care and fiscal responsibility.”

Eight Shalom House employees were laid off when the program closed and they are being given assistance in finding other employment, Haynes-Rodgers said.

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