Regional committee established to advocate for Dorothea Dix Hospital Psychiatric Hospital

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

December 12th, 2011 

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Dorothea Dix Hospital Psychiatric Hospital in Bangor is under threat of closure

Last November Bangor City Councilor Joe Baldacci called for the city to establish a regional group who would amongst other duties help stop the possible closure of Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Hospital. In December the committee was established.

“There is no question that for many families in eastern and northern Maine there is an urgent need for adequate mental health care. As a vital part of that continuum of care, Dorothea Dix is an essential safety net that serves thousands of families in our region,” said Baldacci. “In order to preserve this important safety net, Bangor needs to take a leadership role to advocate for the Dorothea Dix Hospital.”

The state of Maine’s study group assigned to decide the fate of Dorothea Dix Hospital met to discuss the issue with the Bangor community last October. At that time, the hospital had just stopped accepting new patients. The state study group has been unable to come up with any recommendations so far.

“The committee needs to actively monitor the workings of the state study group on Dorothea Dix. Any decision to further cut or close the hospital would only have a worsening effect on an already overburdened and underfunded system of mental health care and on our community, our shelters, the jail, our streets, individuals, and families,” said Baldacci. “In fact I would like to see us call for a reversal of the $2.5 million cut that led to the hospital’s recent decision to stop accepting new patients.”

Dorothea Dix is only one of just two psychiatric hospitals run by the state; and the only one in eastern and northern Maine.

“One main purpose of this committee will be to bring together knowledgeable people in the mental health field to make sure Dorothea Dix is improved and that no further cuts occur for the benefit of the patients and their loved ones, who have relied on the quality of care it provides, regardless of income or insurance,” said Baldacci. “Our regional approach will try to offer realistic alternatives to mental health cutbacks.”

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City councilman for Bangor - Joe Baldacci. photo by Ramona du Houx.

Baldacci believes that a more grassroots regional group can try and work on these issues in an independent and nonpartisan manner. “It’s an issue of great importance to the region. We are stronger working together,” he said.

Listening to the public will be vital to finding appropriate solutions for the community.

“We will organize public forums with our legislative delegation and work to engage citizens, politicians, and state officials in a real discussion on how to improve the current system of mental health-care services and treatment,” said Baldacci.

Baldacci believes there are real solutions, which can be found by working together with all the stakeholders to improve mental health care in the region.