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$4 million grant to bolster mental health services in midcoast

The federal money will help Sweetser hire new staff and compete to retain existing personnel.

BRUNSWICK, Maine — Midcoast Mainers needing mental health care will hopefully find better access in the near future.

Jayne Van Bramer, the CEO of Sweetser, explained how a new $4 million federal grant will bolster staff and services including crisis care and substance use treatment at the nonprofit's Brunswick office.

"I think the need for behavioral health services has never been stronger," Van Bramer said. "Whether it's the outcome of the pandemic, or whether it's the fact that there's less stigma associated with receiving behavioral health services."

Greg Marley, from the Maine chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is thrilled with the investment because, he said, families and individuals still struggle to get proper care.

"It's been slowed down by the pandemic, at the same time that the need has been radically expanding; and there's a lot of wait lists," he explained.

According to the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, service has increased sharply nationwide. 2.1 million people currently receive care from Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, like Sweetser. That rose from 1.5 million people in 2021.

25-year Sweetser Doctor Marc Kaplan was thrilled with the news and was already recruiting for two psychiatric positions.

"The only reason people were on waitlists is because, when you don't have enough staff to bring them into care," Kaplan, Sweetser's medical director, said. "Now, thanks to the grant, we're able to bring them into care."

Van Bramer and Kaplan were still figuring out just how many people they'd be able to hire.

Marley said the crucial next step would be keeping programs funded once the grant ends. Van Bramer assured that she would be working closely with state leaders to provide additional resources down the road.

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