November 22, 2019
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Bangor limits where LePage can build psychiatric facility

Alex Acquisto | BDN
Alex Acquisto | BDN
Bangor Mayor Ben Sprague told councilors at the Dec. 11 meeting that the city cannot dictate operations of LePage's proposed psychiatric facility but can decide its location.

Bangor city councilors voted Monday to block Gov. Paul LePage from building a 21-bed “step-down” forensic psychiatric facility anywhere in the city except on the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center campus.

The council also voted to restrict the location of any future secure residential psychiatric facility for people who have committed crimes to the city’s Government and Institutional Service Districts, where such facilities are already allowed.

City officials can’t stop the state from building such a facility in Bangor, or say how it is managed, but it can dictate where it’s built, Mayor Ben Sprague told councilors.

Councilors approved both items 8-1, with Councilor Gibran Graham opposed.

LePage originally proposed building an 8,300-square-foot center across the road from Dorothea Dix on Hogan Road.

The City Council in September put a six-month moratorium on any psychiatric facilities built in Bangor, citing concern over the governor’s proposed location, as well as security and funding, LePage, in response, threatened to sue the city or take the proposal somewhere else.

City Manager Cathy Conlow said in November that the city and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services have since been communicating “amicably,” and that state officials have been receptive to the city’s concerns.

“I think this is a solution everyone can live with,” Conlow said.

The facility would supplement services already provided by Augusta’s Riverview Psychiatric Center, which lost federal accreditation in 2013 for inadequate operations, including overcrowding, understaffing and unethical treatment of patients.

Democratic legislative leaders blocked a $3 million proposal from LePage to build another facility in Augusta, so the governor turned his attention to Bangor as a possible site.

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