02/24/2022 01:13 PM EST

Additional support comes as Maine launches state’s first comprehensive crisis center

The Mills Administration announced today that, starting next week, it will begin distributing $9.3 million in monthly MaineCare payments to 442 mental health and substance use disorder service providers to support immediate workforce needs as the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) advances its long-term plan to ensure Maine people have access to high-value behavioral health care in their communities. DHHS is prioritizing the payments to bolster community-based services for mental health and substance use disorders that have been strained by the pandemic and its ongoing effects.

The $9.3 million in supplemental payments, which come from the biennial budget passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Mills, will strengthen behavioral health services for adults and children throughout the state — including children’s home and community-based treatment, assertive community treatment, and substance use disorder services — by helping providers pay their direct service workers at least 125 percent of Maine’s minimum wage, consistent with other provisions in the biennial budget. Payments will continue monthly through the end of the calendar year and amounts are based on each provider’s prior 12 months’ of claims for eligible services.

“While we started tackling the gaps in Maine’s behavioral health system before COVID-19, the stress of the global pandemic has taken its toll on Maine residents, their families and caregivers, and our system as a whole,”said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of Health and Human Services. “Our aggressive implementation of short-term payments to support mental health and substance use disorder providers aims to bolster this critical support system during the COVID-19 public health emergency, keeping Maine people in their communities and out of jails and emergency departments whenever possible, as well as progress toward long-term, sustainable solutions.”

The payments announced today are in addition to $50 million in bonus payments for direct support workers the Department has paid to behavioral health providers. The $50 million is part of $116 million in bonus payments the Department has now paid for more than 20,000 direct support workers providing a broad range of personal care, home health, and behavioral health, shared living, and community and work supports. The bonus payments are supported by the American Rescue Plan and represent a major component of the Department’s plan to improve access to high-quality services that help ensure Maine people of all ages, including those living with disabilities and behavioral health challenges, can remain in their communities.

Additionally, the Mills Administration announced today the opening of Maine’s first comprehensive Crisis Receiving Center, where Maine people experiencing a behavioral health crisis can receive expert, compassionate care in a welcoming, home-like environment and be supported by individuals with lived experience of mental health and substance use challenges. The Department of Health and Human Services contracted with Spurwink to develop and implement the Crisis Center, which will soon be open 24/7. Services can currently be accessed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 7 days a week and provides an important alternative to hospital emergency departments and the corrections system. Located at 62 Elm Street in Portland, the Crisis Receiving Center is supported in part by an investment from the Governor and Legislature in the biennial budget.

As it seeks to strengthen crisis response, the Department also:

  • Opened Maine’s first close supervision residential facility in January 2022 to help manage and provide an alternative to incarceration for patients that do not meet the need for inpatient psychiatric care;
  • Created a Health and Justice team of behavioral health professionals to support mental health court dockets and coordinate care for adults with behavioral health disorders who have or are at risk for criminal justice involvement;
  • Expanded crisis support for youth and children including statewide expansion of the successful pilot of Crisis Aftercare in Aroostook County;
  • Secured a federal grant and began work improving Maine’s mobile crisis model to be multidisciplinary, include substance use crisis, and provide faster response times in the community; and
  • Launched development of a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic Model.

The FY22-23 biennial budget combined with the Governor’s proposed supplemental budget represent an investment of $140 million in behavioral health across the biennial. This includes $27.5 million, some already appropriated, for July 1, 2022 cost of living adjustments and funding to increase the adjustments to 4.9%, $800,000 for the DHHS Office of Behavioral Health to continue the Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach Naloxone and Safety (OPTIONS) liaisons program, $1.7 million to provide parity with certain MaineCare payment increases, and $2 million for the DHHS Office of Child and Family Services to support services for homeless youth.

These investments in the biennial and supplemental budgets are in addition to over $33 million of one-time federal funding for mental health and substance use services the Administration has secured over the past year.

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