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September 27, 2017

Bangor imposes temporary halt on state's new psychiatric facility

In a unanimous vote, the Bangor City Council imposed an immediate six-month moratorium against the construction of a new psychiatric facility in the area.

Maine Public reported that the action came in response to a LePage administration proposal to build a 21-bed "step-down" forensic psychiatric facility on Hogan Road in Bangor to house residents who have been ruled by the courts to be not responsible for their crimes due to mental issues.

City Councilor Sarah Nichols said it made more sense to construct the facility near the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta instead.

Council Chairman Joe Baldacci said there were concerns about building the facility close to a residential neighborhood and the city's major shopping district. In August, when the possibility of imposing a moratorium was first raised, he told the Bangor Daily News he was concerned about security, public safety, city resources and the impact on the city.

In a July 11 letter, LePage said the state "will ensure that the selected entity will provide quality care for the patients, ensuring that participation from the City of Bangor and its services will not be necessary."

The House Democratic Office stepped into the debate in August, issuing a statement characterizing LePage's plans in Bangor as an "unauthorized facility," citing a Jan. 24, 2017 letter from Attorney General Janet Mills to Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, and Rep. Aaron Frey, D-Bangor, that a new step-down facility would require legislative authorization, regardless of location.

The House Democratic Office also stated that the forensic patients treated at Riverview Psychiatric Center are under a consent decree that outlines specific standards of care that would need to be met by any provider, state-run or private.

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