Maine Focus

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

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.
Angela Young, a registered nurse, gets supplies to treat a patient at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor.

These 3 careers are adding the most jobs in Maine

By Rosie Hughes on April 26, 2017, at 6:36 a.m.
The fastest-growing jobs in the state are in traditionally women-dominated fields.
Maine Focus
Christian Powers, 41, has Asperger's syndrome and lives in Gorham. He has two college degrees but only works part time because he is afraid he'll lose disability benefits if he makes too much money.

7 little-known ways to help Maine people with disabilities to work

By Corlyn Voorhees on April 25, 2017, at 6:20 a.m.
The harsh reality for people with disabilities — work and struggle to afford medicine, or stay home and struggle to live — is well known, but there are programs and incentives out there to ease the transition to work. It’s just that few people seem to know about them.
BANGOR, MAINE -- 03/20/2017 -- Rebecca Grant at the office where she currently works at St. Joseph Healthcare. She said it was a struggle to get by after she was laid off from FairPoint Communications in July 2015. 
Gabor Degre | BDN

5 lessons from a look at Maine’s workforce challenges

By Erin Rhoda on April 20, 2017, at 6:46 a.m.
The BDN’s Maine Focus team looked at what it would take for thousands more people to work. Here are five specific things we learned.
Rebecca Grant walks to the office where she currently works at St. Joseph Healthcare on March 20, 2017. She said it was a struggle to get by after she was laid off from FairPoint Communications in July 2015.

Politicans say they want people to work, but they ignore this fast route to a job

on April 17, 2017, at 6:28 a.m.
There’s a way to get more people out of poverty, but it’s a “bewildering maze.”
Maine Focus
I arrived home in probably less than optimal shape for parenting, but Beverly, a public health nurse, answered all my questions. She assured me that I was a good mother. This confidence enabled me to become a better parent.

How a public health nurse made a difference in the lives of my 3 kids

By Jules Hathaway on April 15, 2017, at 9:48 a.m.
I find the dismantling of the state’s public health nurse system to be morally reprehensible.
Maine Focus
Dr. Dora Anne Mills is vice president for clinical affairs at the University of New England and is Maine’s former state health director.

What Mother Teresa helped me realize about rural Maine

By Dora Anne Mills on April 13, 2017, at 9:02 a.m.
“If where you are going, you will work with love, and love your work, that is where you are called to go.”
Maine Focus
Jon Hunt, known better as Twitch to his friends, walks through the Bangor Public Library on a sunny afternoon at the end of March. Twitch has never held an official job. He’s worked as a roofer, a blueberry raker and a construction worker, he said, but always under the table. Forty years ago, it was almost unheard of for a man of Twitch’s age to be out of the workforce, meaning neither working nor looking for work. But today, some 15 percent of Maine men ages 25 to 54 find themselves in that situation, according to the Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research and Information.

Thousands of Maine men are missing from the workforce, and no one really knows why

By Rosie Hughes on April 11, 2017, at 6:34 a.m.
Men like Twitch find themselves “set adrift in a world they are not equipped to deal with.”
Amanda Rector, the state economist, talks to Magnetize Maine attendees in Bangor on March 31.

We asked how to attract younger people to Maine. Here’s what you said.

By Corlyn Voorhees on April 08, 2017, at 7:36 a.m.
You really like the idea of loan forgiveness.
Maine Focus
Over the last several years, the number of public health nurses has fallen by more than half.

LePage cut ranks of nurses who prevent outbreaks. Now lawmakers are trying to rebuild

By Matthew Stone on April 07, 2017, at 6:17 a.m.
In recent years, the number of public health nurses has fallen by more than half.
The Maine State House is pictured in January 2016.

LePage administration paid $315K for a consultant to rethink child care, then did nothing

By Matthew Stone on April 04, 2017, at 6:26 a.m.
The state told federal regulators it planned to carry out the consultant’s recommendations and re-upped with the consultant after its first proposal. But it appears there are no plans to follow through.
Sen. Angus King listens as Bucksport officials discuss the potential redevelopment of the former Verso Paper mill in Bucksport. King is proposing an initiative to get rural Maine communities to think about their futures.

King wants rural towns to compete for money to turn around their future

By Matthew Stone on April 03, 2017, at 7:06 p.m.
If current trends hold, Maine’s rural regions are destined for a future in which communities will continue to shrink, and some might cease to exist as municipalities.