BANGOR, Maine — City councilors couldn’t have been much more unified or emphatic Monday night in showing support of Bangor’s Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center and a desire to exhaust all means in an effort to keep it open.
After several councilors took the opportunity to provide reasons for keeping the state-managed facility and explain their displeasure with the state and Maine’s Legislature for even considering the closure of one of Maine’s two psychiatric centers, the council voted unanimously 9-0 to approve its support as well as the formation of a regional committee to lobby and advocate to keep it open.
“Closing Dorothea Dix would be devastating to Bangor and eastern Maine … and would increase the demand and burden on Bangor’s emergency response services,” said Councilor Joe Baldacci.
Shawn Yardley, Bangor’s director of health and community services, spoke before the council to reinforce the idea that Bangor, Penobscot County and central and northern Maine would suffer and face more costs from the closure of the center than the short-term monetary savings it would realize. Chief among the consequences would be a lack of services available to people who are or could become dangers to themselves and others if left untreated. Another would be the loss of approximately 70 jobs at the facility.
A patient at the center testified before the council that she has been battling “problems” for five or six years and that Dix, where she has been receiving outpatient treatment, has provided help.
Yardley said Dix’s closure could mean about 1,000 people being “put back in that cycle” of being on their own without proper treatment.
Councilors have held a couple of workshops and hearings to hear from health and civic officials about the effects a closure would have on the community, region and state.
Council members have vowed to fight possible closure by forming a committee over the next month made up of people from inside and outside Bangor and from inside and outside the health and medical professions to make it a more regional and diverse group.
A Dix center worker told councilors about seeing patients getting help by regular treatment and visibly improving on a regular basis. Another thanked the council for its united support as well as its effort and willingness to fight a possible closure.