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July 16, 2018

Portland treatment center closing due to funding caps, low state reimbursement

Serenity House, a 16-bed residential treatment center in Portland, ended its program Friday due to fiscal challenges that it says include insufficient state reimbursements.

Executive Director Bob Dawber told Maine Public that fiscal challenges included the LePage administration's decision not to apply for a federal waiver that would have allowed Serenity House to operate 33 beds, in addition to the insufficient state reimbursements.

Serenity House merged with York County Shelter Programs in 2012, according to the latter's website.

Among its programs, York County Shelter Programs offers an intensive outpatient program and another treatment program called Ray Anger's Farm. In the heart of Portland on Mellen Street, Serenity House was the longest residential treatment program in Portland. The merger with York County Shelter Programs allowed Serenity "to provide services much more efficiently and effectively," the website stated. Serenity House has 16 male beds and offers intensive substance abuse treatment through one-on-one counseling, peer-to-peer mentoring, in-house groups, and community engagement.

It's staffed 24/7 by licensed addiction counselors and professionals.

This is not the only recent upheaval in substance abuse treatment programs. In May, Brewer-based Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems left substance abuse treatment partnerships it had with Portland and Bangor in response to lawsuits the two cities joined against national pharma manufacturers and distributors alleging that they caused the opioid abuse epidemic.

In its statement, EMHS said it would no longer participate in the Community Health Leadership Board and the Greater Portland Addiction Collaborative.

These developments come at a time when drug overdose deaths increased by 11% in 2017, driven by a sharp increase of 27% in deaths due to illegal fentanyl and fentanyl-related substances that can be even more potent. Maine Attorney General Janet Mills reported in February that there were 418 drug-induced deaths in 2017, according to data collected and analyzed by Marcella H. Sorg of the Margaret Chase Smith Policy Center under a contract with the AG's office.

But one positive development occurred late last year, when a group of partners purchased a former Spurwink Services Inc. facility, at 12 & 17 Bishop St. in Portland, to establish a much-needed facility for individuals suffering from substance use disorder. In November, one of the partners, John Buro, provided Mainebiz with a mission statement that said the facility, to be named the Pine Tree Recovery Center, would include residential detoxification services and short-term stabilization services.

A website called Guardian Recovery Network says Pine Tree Recovery Center will open this summer, offering medical detoxification, crisis intervention, case management and a slew of other services.

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