AUGUSTA – Governor Paul R. LePage issued the following statement regarding the refusal by lame-duck Democrats on the Legislative Council to approve a much-needed stepdown unit for mental health patients on the Riverview hospital campus. The council voted along party lines to oppose the plan.
“My administration has been working for years to regain federal certification of Riverview Psychiatric Center, and Democrats in the Legislature have opposed virtually every effort we have made,” said Governor LePage. “They just don’t care about Mainers with mental health issues. Fortunately, we have made progress with minimal help from the Legislature. We are not going to let people with mental illness languish for years. We will simply build the stepdown facility outside of the Capitol Area and out of the jurisdiction of Democrats on the Legislative Council.”
An essential piece of the puzzle required for certification is that patients not requiring a hospital level of care must be placed elsewhere. This stepdown unit would provide that critical need by keeping those patients in a secure facility that provides the care they need before the courts release them from state custody.
This proposal has received the unanimous approval of both the Augusta Planning Board and the Capitol Area Planning Commission. The Maine chapter of the National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI) also communicated their support to lawmakers. The only people blocking this proposal are Democratic politicians in the Legislature.
It was only when the Attorney General’s Office decided to change their interpretation of an obscure statute that the Legislative Council became involved. The AG says this statute requires projects in the Capitol Area be approved by the Legislative Council, although they did not interpret this provision similarly as it relates to approximately 30 other projects over the years.
“Democrats have been using Riverview’s challenges as a tool to attack my administration for years,” said Governor LePage. “These problems could have been solved long ago if they weren’t playing politics. All Democrats needed to do today was vote ‘yes,’ and Maine’s mental health system would be much better off, freeing up beds in Maine hospitals and delivering the appropriate level of care to all who need it.”