Legislature enacts Bellows bill restoring mental health services
LD 808 undoes cuts made to community support services for vulnerable Mainers
AUGUSTA — The Maine Senate on Thursday voted unanimously to enact a bill by Sen. Shenna Bellows, D-Manchester, to undo harmful cuts made last year to support systems for some adults with severe and persistent mental illnesses.
The legislation — LD 808, “An Act To Restore Community Support Services for Adults with Mental Illness” — restores access to services for a portion of the population with mental illness whose community service coverage under Section 17 of the MaineCare program was eliminated when the Department of Health and Human Services changed eligibility rules last year.
“Under former Commissioner Mary Mayhew, DHHS systematically dismantled the system of supports for people living with mental illness, precipitating a crisis. Maine’s opioid crisis is worsening and is inextricably linked with our diminished support for people with mental illness,” said Sen. Bellows. “This law will ensure that more Mainers, including those who struggle with PTSD or bipolar disorder, get the help they need to be successful.”
Last year’s eligibility changes cut services for all clients except those who were diagnosed with schizophrenia or schizophrenic affective disorder, or who were at imminent risk of homelessness, hospitalization or interaction with the criminal justice system.
The original bill would have restored services to nearly all those Mainers who lost them as a result of the eligibility cuts. However, concerns over funding threatened the bill’s passage. Sen. Bellows worked with stakeholders to craft an amendment to expand coverage to Mainers diagnosed with bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. Expansion to those populations can be funded within existing DHHS resources.
Services at issue include case management and daily living supports to adults struggling with mental illness. Providers help clients obtain and keep housing, financial and medical assistance and counseling.
The bill now goes to Gov. Paul LePage, who has 10 days to sign it into law, veto it or allow it to become law without his signature.