Following Release of Governor’s Budget Change Package, Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Coalition Urges Swift Passage

The Governor’s supplemental budget change package, released earlier today, proposes an additional $19.7 million in state funding to address immediate needs in Maine’s behavioral health system. The proposal, which was developed in collaboration with behavioral health providers, supports children’s residential care, assertive community treatment for those with severe and persistent mental illness, targeted case management, and outpatient therapy for children and adults through one-time supplemental payments and ongoing rate adjustments – services that were included in a set of four bills that passed unanimously in 2021 (LDs 432, 582, 496, and 415) but whose $16.5 million in state funds were not appropriated by the Legislature last year. Most of the funding is for one-time COVID-19 related payments to offset pandemic-related losses, reduce utilization of hospital emergency departments for behavioral health crises, meet increased demand due to the long-term mental health effects of the pandemic, and stabilize wait lists for services. Some will be used to fund long-term rate reforms upon completion of studies for behavioral health services.

“Addressing the behavioral health crisis with this immediate infusion of funds will stabilize a system of care for consumers who are in need of help and providers who are desperately trying to maintain current services as the demand grows. The investment of these funds will assure the stabilization of our system as we work to continue to improve access to the services that are the backbone of a healthy Maine. We are grateful for the recognition of the crisis and the commitment of these emergency funds as we work together to continue the structural improvements the Department has already begun,” said Betsy Sweet on behalf of the Behavioral Health Community Collaborative.

“Members of the Alliance appreciate the Mills Administration’s collaboration in developing this funding for behavioral health services. We have been able to effectively target these funds to some of the most critically needed mental health and substance use services in our continuum of care, and some of the hardest hit by the pandemic,” said Malory Shaughnessy, Executive Director, Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services. “While today’s investment does not fix our very stressed system of care, it takes an important step toward stabilizing services as we work together with the administration on the longer term structural changes to improve the behavioral health of our communities.”

“This budget proposal takes a critical step towards stabilizing community behavioral health services that are needed to better meet the needs of Maine people,” said Katie Fullam Harris of MaineHealth. “Every day, children and adults in behavioral health crisis get stuck in our emergency departments for days – and sometimes weeks or longer –  awaiting access to appropriate levels of care. Maine’s behavioral health system was neglected for nearly a decade, and we appreciate the Mills Administration’s willingness to collaborate on this proposal that will help stabilize services that are needed now more than ever to address the unprecedented levels of behavioral health need facing our communities.”

“We appreciate the department working to stabilize the current crisis in access for the 1 in 4 of our neighbors struggling with mental health challenges, particularly those who are most vulnerable,” said Hannah Longley of NAMI Maine. “Research clearly indicates that by funding community mental health resources, we are able to save lives and divert individuals from higher and more costly levels of care. Throughout the course of the pandemic, it has become abundantly clear that mental health impacts all of us and prioritization of funding evidenced based resources and services is critical to address the growing needs across our state.”

“We are very excited that our peers will begin to see increased access to desperately needed core mental health services in the community,” said Simonne Maline, Executive Director of the Consumer Council System of Maine. “This is an important step in working to fix the mental health system in Maine. We look forward to further collaboration as we move forward to increase the supports for our friends, families and neighbors who are in need of mental health services.”

“None of this would have been possible without the incredible leadership of legislators of both parties,” said John Hennessy for the Coalition. “We urge the full legislature to come together to pass a bipartisan budget that funds these critical services as soon as possible.”