Maine Focus

Maine Focus is a journalism and community engagement initiative of the Bangor Daily News.

Maine Focus
Sheldon Snell walks through the Walsh Field Recreation Area in Belfast, where he's the groundskeeper, on June 7.

The 18 lost years of a Maine man imprisoned with addiction

By Erin Rhoda on July 26, 2017, at 6:11 a.m.
How Maine jails fall short in easing a crisis they help perpetuate.
Maine Focus
Organizations representing child care providers, parents and others have filed a petition to force a legislative review of new child care rules proposed by the LePage administration that relax licensing requirements for in-home child care providers.

Concerned groups force Maine Legislature to scrutinize DHHS child care rules

By Matthew Stone on July 19, 2017, at 5:39 a.m.
Maine DHHS says it’s trying to streamline the state’s family child care licensing requirements, and it plans to implement the changes without approval from the Maine Legislature, which would typically be required.
Maine Focus
Barry Cook works to sort lumber at a St. Albans sawmill called Sebasticook Lumber on June 15, 2017.

A Maine nonprofit paid its disabled workers less than minimum wage, while its executives got six figures

By Corlyn Voorhees on July 12, 2017, at 6:37 a.m.
It also violated the subminimum wage law more than any other employer in the state.
Steam rises as Asa Marsh-Sachs, the brewmaster of Orono Brewing Company, dumps ingredients into the  boil kettle while brewing a batch of beer.

What does innovation in Maine look like? Share your ideas.

By Rosie Hughes on July 01, 2017, at 8:19 a.m.
If innovation is the key to developing Bangor’s economy, how can it be encouraged, and by whom?
The State House in Augusta. LD 967 would increase the wages of direct care workers who help people with disabilities. The bill has been passed by the Legislature, but its funding is pending.

After a decade of funding cuts, dozens of homes for Maine people with disabilities are shutting down

By Corlyn Voorhees on June 22, 2017, at 1:54 p.m.
Over the past year, 24 homes for people with intellectual disabilities have closed, and 12 more are expected to shutter in the next six months, leaving the futures of more than 100 people uncertain.
Maine Focus
The LePage administration says it’s overhauling the way the state treats in-home child care businesses because it wants to reverse a long-term decline in their numbers.

DHHS is paying more for child care — after saying it wasn’t allowed to

By Matthew Stone on June 22, 2017, at 6:08 a.m.
In addition, it wants to eliminate a number of rights parents are currently guaranteed, such as the right to visit their children at any time during the day and the right to be informed of any licensing deficiencies.
Maine Focus
Members of the Maine Senate listen to Gov. Paul LePage speak during the first session of the 128th Legislature on Dec. 7, 2016, at the State House in Augusta.

LePage signs bill to probe Maine infant deaths 

By Erin Rhoda on June 19, 2017, at 11:25 a.m.
It follows reporting last summer by the BDN’s Maine Focus team that found Maine was the only state to see a long-term increase in its infant mortality rate over the past two decades.
Maine Focus
Gov. Paul LePage addresses the chamber during the 2017 State of the State address at the State House in Augusta on Feb. 7, 2017.

What LePage really plans to do with $100M meant for Maine families in poverty

By Matthew Stone on June 16, 2017, at 3:56 p.m.
The administration has orchestrated this major budget shift on its own, largely beyond public view and mostly without adding to the support available to help low-income Mainers escape poverty.
Maine Focus
Department of Corrections Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick testified at a work session of the Maine Legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety on Feb. 27, 2017. Fitzpatrick has since largely ceased communicating with the committee, according to Rep. Charlotte Warren, D-Hallowell, co-chairwoman of the committee.

Behind the scenes of reporting on prisons under LePage

By Rosie Hughes on June 12, 2017, at 1:50 p.m.
“I’ve got about 30 seconds for you,” Joseph Fitzpatrick, the commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections, said into the phone.
Maine Focus
A wooden eagle is seen at the Maine State Prison in Warren on April 5, 2017.

Here’s everything we have on who’s overseeing Maine prisons and jails 

By Rosie Hughes on June 10, 2017, at 7:20 a.m.
No one appears to have compiled the info before.
Maine Focus
Long Creek Youth Development Center in South Portland is pictured Nov. 17, 2016.

Watchdogs revealed crisis in Maine’s youth prison. LePage let them go.

By Jake Bleiberg and Rosie Hughes on June 08, 2017, at 6:12 a.m.
The move dealt a blow to an already faltering prison oversight system that’s meant to ensure accountability in a government-run world concealed behind high fences and locked doors.
Outgoing Maine Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew (left) and Dr. Sheila Pinette, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention in a file photo.

How Mary Mayhew consolidated control over DHHS

By Matthew Stone on May 24, 2017, at 3:18 p.m.
The inner workings of Maine’s largest state agency have fundamentally changed during the past six years.
Gears on a children's toy in the waiting room at Bangor Public Health and Community Services, where WIC recipients have their appointments.

Bill to let infant death review group do its job gets initial approval

By Matthew Stone on May 23, 2017, at 6:56 p.m.
The legislation follows reporting last summer by the BDN’s Maine Focus team that found Maine was the only state to see a long-term increase in its infant mortality rate over the past two decades.
BANGOR, MAINE -- 02/28/2017 --  Salena Sawtelle has been working at the Stillwater Health Care facility in Bangor for three years. Nursing homes such as this are largely staffed by women and the wages are not far above Maine's minimum wage.

When this Maine caregiver shared her struggle to get by, strangers showed up with gifts

By Rosie Hughes on May 19, 2017, at 6:28 a.m.
Salena Sawtelle, a certified nursing assistant in Bangor, couldn’t even afford new shoes. She’s since been offered 20 new pairs.
State Sen. Brownie Carson, D-Harpswell.

Bill that restores public health nursing program earns initial approval

By Matthew Stone on May 18, 2017, at 6:56 p.m.
The legislation, LD 1108, follows a BDN Maine Focus story last summer that detailed the major, unannounced contraction of Maine’s public health nursing program in recent years.
Maine Focus
State Sen. Brownie Carson, D-Harpswell.

DHHS has blocked lawmakers from public data on nursing program

By Matthew Stone on May 18, 2017, at 6:11 a.m.
The experience of requesting public information and not receiving it has become the norm in recent months for state Sen. Brownie Carson and others who have sought details and basic documents about public health nursing from the Maine CDC.
Maine Focus
Judy Gopaul worked at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention within the Maine Department of Health and Human Services for six years, most of them as the local health officer coordinator. She became the Freedom of Access Act coordinator February 1, 2016, and was responsible for reviewing requests for public information from members of the public, determining how to respond and following through. She was fired in December 2016 for releasing a public report to the Bangor Daily News, that had already been published, without first running it by her superiors.

DHHS fired a public records coordinator — for releasing a public record

By Erin Rhoda on May 16, 2017, at 8:28 p.m.
A BDN review of DHHS documents related to Judy Gopaul’s termination reveals an excessively complicated process, occasionally verging on farcical, for making decisions about how to respond to even the most minor questions from the public.
Maine Focus
BELFAST, MAINE -- 09/14/2016 -- The Maine state flag waves in a breeze outside Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast.

3 major things that need to change to grow Maine’s economy

By Corlyn Voorhees on May 05, 2017, at 6:43 a.m.
For years, the state hasn’t seen improvement on them.
Salena Sawtelle, a certified nursing assistant, combs Ora Bartlet's hair before taking him to breakfast at the Stillwater Health Care facility in Bangor in March.

Maine’s 3 biggest bills to fill health care worker shortages

By Rosie Hughes on May 02, 2017, at 6:09 a.m.
These bills currently being considered by the Maine Legislature would directly affect nurses, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, and direct care workers across the state.
Maine Focus
Ben Dionne, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 18 months old, pours seeds at his job at Paris Farmers Union in Lewiston on March 16.

These three states are the best at employing people with disabilities

By Corlyn Voorhees on April 28, 2017, at 6:16 a.m.
Here’s a closer look at what three states are doing to get more people with disabilities to work.