Facility on Bangor hospital’s campus now serving older patients

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced on January 15, 2021 that the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center (DDPC) has opened a new unit on its Bangor campus to serve older patients, expanding inpatient-level care as part of DHHSs initiative to strengthen mental health services throughout the state.

The new unit serves older patients with severe and persistent mental illness, providing compassionate, evidence-based psychiatric assessment and treatment, as well as planning for safe and appropriate discharge to the community. Older adults often have multiple underlying health conditions and medication needs that require special consideration in assessing and treating their psychiatric illnesses. Since Maine has a larger share of older residents, this new unit serves a special need.

It opened to new patients this week and several existing patients transferred from the main hospital to the new unit. Additional patients are expected to be admitted from the community in the coming days.

“The opening of this new unit at the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor provides older Mainers with an option for inpatient psychiatric care in this area of the state tailored to their unique needs,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. As we welcome new patients this week, we also continue our work to strengthen outpatient mental health services in communities throughout Maine.

Located several hundred yards from the main hospital, the new unit functions as part of DDPC, with shared staff, services, and administrators. The unit can accommodate up to 18 beds and is located on one floor with single rooms designed for patients who may also have physical limitations, providing a safe and therapeutic environment.Photo of the new Dorothea Dix unit.

The new unit provides an additional destination in Maine for older people in need of acute psychiatric care, including people who are referred from health providers in the community as well as people involved in the criminal justice system.

Construction of the new unit, which began under a previous administration, was completed in December, following construction delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic and permitting requirements. Its use was changed from a secure step-down unit to a unit serving older patients. The new unit is largely financed with federal funding, along with existing state funding.

The DHHS budget proposal for fiscal years 2022-23, released last week, builds upon the Departments efforts to strengthen and expand outpatient mental health services in Maine. The proposal includes an additional $7.5 million for community mental health and substance use disorder services, such as a Justice and Health Team to reduce the strain on emergency departments, jails, state psychiatric facilities, and the criminal justice system with the goal of providing appropriate care in the most appropriate setting. The funds additionally support mental health crisis services in Cumberland County, helping individuals get appropriate treatment and avoid unnecessary institutionalization or incarceration, MaineCare reimbursement for intensive outpatient treatment; and $2 million to promote the OPTIONS (Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach, Naloxone and Safety) Initiative to dispatch mobile response teams in every Maine county to communities with high rates of drug overdoses.