AUGUSTA, Maine — The federal government will restore approximately $20 million in annual funding to the state-run psychiatric hospital in Augusta after Riverview Psychiatric Center was recertified by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Friday.
The 92-bed hospital that opened in 2004 was decertified by the federal government in 2013 for overcrowding, inadequate staffing levels and the use of stun guns and restraints to subdue patients. Late last year, it was clear that Riverview was on track to regain certification after stabilizing staffing levels and lowering restraint use.
Still, the decertification has hung over Maine’s mental health system for years.
The federal government asked Maine to pay back more than $50 million in federal funding in 2017, which the administration of former Gov. Paul LePage resisted. The Republican used the decertification of Riverview as a justification for building an ancillary Bangor facility without legislative approval.
Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, hasn’t committed to opening the facility, but a 30-year lease signed last year under LePage obiligates $11.3 million in payments to a private contractor. It’s unclear how that will be resolved, but the 16-bed facility is expected to be finished in May.
In a statement, Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said the recertification is an “important milestone” in Riverview becoming “a center for best practices and compassionate treatment, a conscientious employer, and a partner in the community.”
Since decertification in 2013, the state continued to receive a portion of federal funds allocated for Riverview. However, in 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services no longer allowed DHHS to receive Disproportionate Share Hospital payments, which provide additional support to hospitals that serve a large share of Medicaid and uninsured patients, according to DHHS spokesperson Jackie Farwell.
Because of the uncertainty about federal funds, the previous Legislature set aside $65 million in the budget stabilization fund to offset potential federal aid cuts to Riverview, she said.
Former Maine Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Dan Wathen, who oversees the state’s compliance with a court settlement over the state’s mental health system, called the move “reassuring.”