Staff Shortages Threaten Mental-Health System for Basic Services
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
AUGUSTA, Maine -- With about three weeks left in the legislative session, mental-health advocates want lawmakers to increase the funding for essential MaineCare services in order to attract more badly needed staff.
Experts contended long waiting lists often mean families can't get counseling and end up in crisis.
Amy Cohan, vice president of outpatient and community services for Spurwink Services and a licensed clinical social worker, said at times there have been as many as 500 families waiting for in-home counseling, especially people who live away from the I-95 corridor.
"Insufficient rates make it really impossible for providers to travel to families' homes, particularly in rural parts of the state, in a financially sustainable way," Cohan explained.
Cohan noted during the pandemic, calls to hotlines, rates of anxiety and depression, suicidal thinking and suicides all rose sharply. In addition, opioid overdoses increased to record levels, reversing progress made in recent years.
Multiple bills, including Legislative Document 432 and Legislative Document 1173, which are intended to address the situation, are waiting to get a vote. Lawmakers need to finalize the budget before the session ends on June 16.
Opponents objected to the cost of raising providers' pay, but supporters countered it's crucial in order to attract more people to the social-services profession.
Rep. Colleen Madigan, D-Waterville, co-sponsored several bills to help alleviate some pressure.
"There needs to be more money put into put state now so that kids can stay at home," Madigan asserted. "They can be treated in their communities, and they can get the behavioral health care they need before they wind up in an emergency room or needing inpatient hospitalization or residential care."
Madigan pointed out many programs have been forced to cut services for lack of staff, leaving families no option but to send their children out of state to find a residential placement.
David McCluskey, executive director of Community Care, a nonprofit that treats people with mental illness, said the staff shortages translate into a broken system that causes real suffering for families.
"So there's people who are waiting to leave psychiatric hospitals because there's no place for them to step down to," McCluskey stressed. "And then there's also people waiting to get into hospitals. And so the system is sort of frozen."
Legislative Document 432
Legislative Document 1173
Maine juvenile justice system assessment Center for Children’s Law and Policy 02/25/202
Children's behavioral health data Maine Dept. of Health and Human Services
Mental health during pandemic CDC 04/02/2021
Drug death report Maine Attorney General's Office 10/21/2020
get more stories like this via email
Groups working to curb climate change said a Supreme Court ruling limiting the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to control carbon …
Government labels on meat products that say "humane" or "raised in a stress-free environment" are meaningless, according to some animal-rights groups…
A new report found when high school students enroll in early college programs, it improves the chances they will go on to college after graduation…
As hurricane season kicks into full gear, Pennsylvania officials are reflecting on the impacts of Hurricane Agnes 50 years ago, and urging property …
Health and Wellness
Texas is home to one in 10 Americans of reproductive age, and mandated births due to the state's abortion ban will increase the number of maternal …
Community health centers are calling on state and federal lawmakers for added protections against drug manufactures for drastically cutting them out o…
The futures of tourism, wildlife and ranching in Mono County are now at the mercy of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power - according to …
Coming off a string of controversial opinions, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments in a case tied to oversight of federal elections…