State

DHHS quietly overhauls aid for children, adults in crisis

Editor’s note: This is the first story in a series on the weak spots in Maine’s care for children with mental health challenges.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services last month quietly overhauled a statewide emergency service that’s supposed to be available around the clock for children and adults experiencing suicidal thoughts, severe bouts of depression, crippling anxiety or any other mental health crisis.

The first realignment of Maine’s network of mental health crisis services in two decades came without public engagement and with limited preparation. The department says it doesn’t expect to save money as a result of the move, but a change in how it’s paying for the service has some of the private agencies that provide it unsure they can afford to continue providing it long-term.

The state’s corps of emergency mental health workers are there for anyone who calls the statewide crisis hotline looking for help. Hospital emergency rooms, county jails and police departments that need help de-escalating dangerous mental health-related situations are also frequent hotline callers. So are family members concerned about loved ones’ safety.

Since the 1990s, the state has contracted with the same handful of agencies to deliver crisis services in specific regions around the state. A call to the statewide crisis hotline (888-568-1112) rang at the offices of the nearest regional crisis services provider, where mental health workers would offer support over the phone and, if needed, go out to meet the caller face to face to make sure they were safe and develop a plan for follow-up treatment.

The Fiddlehead Focus/St. John Valley Times is pleased to feature content from our sister company, Bangor Daily News. To read the rest of “DHHS quietly overhauls aid for children, adults in crisis,” an article by contributing Bangor Daily News staff writer Matthew Stone, please follow this link to the BDN online.

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