LePage: Feds approve plan for Maine psych hospital

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — A troubled state-run psychiatric center facing a loss of half its operating budget next week is on track to maintain funding, after the federal government approved Maine’s plan to correct problems at the 92-bed facility in Augusta.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage said in a statement late Thursday that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services accepted the proposal to decertify 20 beds at the Riverview Psychiatric Center, a move that would allow federal dollars to continue coming into the center. Federal regulators had said they would strip $20 million from the center by Monday because it failed to meet a number of certification standards.

The announcement came just hours after lawmakers sent LePage a bill — which he is expected to sign soon — that will allow Riverview to send patients who need closer security monitoring to a mental health unit at Maine State Prison.

Riverview Superintendent Mary Louise McEwan said Friday that the federal government’s approval is contingent on a final review of the hospital, but if the government reviews the center after Monday and it’s found to be in compliance, it will pay back the hospital for the days it lost funding.

The federal government cited several problems with the hospital, which houses many patients who come via jail and court order, including the center’s use of correctional officers to handle the growing number of patients attacking staff. Decertifying 20 beds will allow the center to continue using correctional officers in a certain unit at the center.

McEwan said she had been confident the two sides would reach an agreement about how to fix the problems at Riverview.

“I am very pleased that we have reached that point and now we can move forward,” she said.

The problems at the hospital led lawmakers to act this week on a bill to staff a mental health wing at Maine State Prison, where Riverview will now be able to send some of its patients. Lawmakers said the bill, which was overwhelmingly approved during Thursday’s special session, will help Riverview by allowing it to provide a safer environment for staff and other patients.

McEwan said the mental health unit at the prison will also allow people at the county jails to receive treatment, which will have a huge impact on the larger mental health system in Maine.

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