Sen. Breen introduces bill to keep mental health care providers in Maine

Posted: February 07, 2018 | Senator Breen

AUGUSTA — Sen. Cathy Breen of Falmouth introduced legislation to increase medication management reimbursement rates for health care providers accepting MaineCare. LD 1737, “An Act To Preserve Medication Management for Persons with Mental Health Needs” seeks to address inadequate reimbursement rates which make it difficult to hire and retain mental health professionals to do this work in Maine.

The bill received a public hearing before the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday.

“Medication Management provides and adjusts essential medications for Maine people living with mental illness, Maine people recovering from substance abuse addiction, and elderly Maine people trying to stay in their home. Without these critical services, many families and individuals would have nowhere to turn,” said Sen. Breen. “We need to increase reimbursement rates so mental health care providers can afford to provide care individuals through MaineCare. My bill would begin to address this very real crisis, and ultimately save people’s lives, taxpayers’ money and provide the basics of quality care.”

Sen. Breen’s bill seeks to increase the reimbursement rate for medication management by 25 percent. The current reimbursement rate has remained stagnant for the past decade, making it difficult for providers to offer this program without suffering significant financial losses. Both Maine Behavioral Health and Kennebec Behavioral Health reported six figure losses annually. Spurwink ended their program because they could no longer afford to run it.

Many agencies providing medication management already have long waitlists. Maine Behavioral Health and Kennebec Behavioral Health reported having wait lists up to 1,200 and 500 respectively. Reduced availability of this service across the state, will mean longer waitlists and, more emergency room visits, hospital stays, and more people incarcerated with mental illness and substance abuse disorders.

“LD 1737 will hopefully afford an individual with mental health issues the opportunity to receive treatment that could help them not reach a crisis state, and therefore become caught up in the criminal justice system,” said Kevin Joyce, Sheriff of Cumberland County. “Mental illness in our communities is a difficult topic, but one we cannot ignore if we care about dignity and humanity for all of our citizens.”

The bill faces further action in the Health and Human Services Committee, as well as the Senate and House.