LePage lease aims to keep psychiatric residence in Bangor
BANGOR, Maine (AP) — A lease letter obligates the state to pay $11.3 million over 30 years for a 16-bed psychiatric residence that was supposed to cost $2 million to $3 million to build, and also includes stipulations that require the facility and service to be provided in Bangor.
New documents break down for the first time how the administration of former Gov. Paul LePage negotiated the construction and lease of a privately run state psychiatric facility that he and lawmakers battled over for years, the Bangor Daily News reported .
The facility, which will temporarily house some psychiatric patients who no longer need hospital care, has been sought for years as a way to help the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta regain the federal certification that was lost in 2013.
LePage, a Republican, wanted to ensure the facility was built in Bangor, on the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center campus, and not in Augusta, where the Riverview Psychiatric Center is located.
The letter bars the lease from being terminated so the building and services could be relocated elsewhere. Even if the state was intent on building a center in Augusta, the state would have to continue to keep at least seven patients in the Bangor center, the newspaper said.
“It seems to me we have a hornet’s nest,” said state Sen. Geoff Gratwick, a Bangor Democrat who has favored locating the psychiatric facility in Augusta so patients can continue seeing the same care providers to whom they’ve become accustomed to during their time at Riverview.
The lease came together in LePage’s final year in office, but his administration never signed off on a deal with an out-of-state private care provider for the building.
Tennessee-based Correct Care Recovery Solutions and the state were negotiating a $60.3 million contract when a special master overseeing Maine’s mental health care system raised objections in December. The service provider delayed signing a contract due to concerns raised by the office of then-incoming Gov. Janet Mills and her administration.
A spokesman for Mills said “a thorough evaluation of all aspects” will be conducted to determine the path forward.
Meanwhile, just who the new facility will serve remains unclear. Rodney Bouffard, superintendent at Riverview Psychiatric Center, said Tuesday that Riverview has made progress moving patients back into the community, and that he wants to see how such efforts continue going forward.
“You could argue there are still people who need to be moved there, you could argue this thing either way,” Bouffard said at a Tuesday briefing to lawmakers.
Democratic Rep. Patty Hymanson, house chair of the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee, questioned whether the new facility would be needed if it wasn’t already being built.
Bouffard declined to answer yes-or-no.
“I’m not trying to avoid your question,” Bouffard said. “We’ve initiated these new practices, and we’re starting to see movement, we’ll see where the movement takes us.”