May 20, 2018
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Bangor council names 12 of 13 to Dorothea Dix committee

By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Almost a month after the City Council unanimously voted to fight a proposed closing of the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center by the state for budgetary reasons, an ad hoc committee has been formed to do just that.

The committee will hold its first meeting at 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, at the City Hall chambers.

Councilors Joe Baldacci and Nelson Durgin head up the 13-member committee along with Christian Andersen, Houlton Regional Hospital emergency room doctor; Butch Asselin, Houlton’s police chief; Dale Hamilton, executive director of Community Health and Counseling Services; Steve Letourneau, CEO of Catholic Charities of Maine; Tom Lizotte, Piscataquis County commissioner; Dennis Marble, CEO of the Bangor Area Homeless Shelter; Joe Pickering, retired CEO of Community Health and Counseling Services and parent of a psychiatric services recipient; Glenn Ross, Penobscot County sheriff; Judy Street, emergency room head nurse at St. Joseph Hospital; and Sharon Tomah, Wabanaki Mental Health program manager.

A 13th committee member representing Eastern Maine Healthcare also will be named.

Bangor Police Chief Ron Gastia and Shawn Yardley, director of Bangor Health and Community Services, both will serve as ex-officio committee members and provide support.

“It’s a strong committee and Shawn did a great job pulling people in throughout the region who have experiences from a broad spectrum,” said Baldacci. “I think this shows a real depth that this issue has for those all around the state. It affects many people and a lot of families and facilities.”

The primary goal for the committee is to reinstate full funding for the center, which stands to lose nearly $7 million in state funding starting in 2013.

If Dorothea Dix is closed, Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta would be Maine’s only public psychiatric center in operation.

“Time is of the essence but I do think we have some time to work with as I think the budget process could take two to three months,” Baldacci said.

Baldacci said he thinks it’s likely the Maine State Legislature won’t be making a final decision until March.

Also Monday night, the council voted 7-0 in favor of opposing a proposal by the U.S. Postal Service to close the mail processing operations at the USPS Eastern Maine Processing and Distribution Center in Hampden. Councilors Geoffrey Gratwick and Patricia Blanchette were absent from the vote as Blanchette was hospitalized for undisclosed reasons Monday afternoon and Gratwick is on vacation.

A public meeting on the proposal will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Jeff’s Catering and Banquet Facility in Brewer.

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