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Maine lawmakers will push for federal resources to tackle mental health

Once state lawmakers get down to work in Augusta in January, one of the first bills on the table will be a push to get federal mental health funding.

AUGUSTA, Maine — When the legislature gets down to business in Augusta in January, one of the first bills they'll take up will be a push to get federal funding for mental health resources.

"We can't treat people or help them if we are keeping them in a hallway or at an emergency room waiting for treatment," Sen. Joe Baldacci, D-Bangor, said.

That's why he's proposing a bill that would force the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to apply for a federal waiver that would provide funding to mental health facilities here in Maine.

Maine has already applied and received this waiver for substance abuse disorder, but not for serious brain disorders like bipolar and schizophrenia.

Former Maine Democratic Sen. John Nutting has been a big supporter of mental health resources like this since the early 2000s. He said Maine needs to follow states like Washington, Florida, Illinois, and Hawaii.

"We can take all of it and put it in community services like other states already have," Nutting said, explaining how the waiver works.

But not everyone is in favor of this legislation. The Consumer Council System of Maine doesn't believe in forcing people into treatment, which they say is what funding this treatment program would do.

"Abuse tends to happen much more in institutions than they do out in the community and in people's homes," Simonne Maline, executive director of the Consumer Council System of Maine said explaining why in-patient treatment doesn't work.

Baldacci said this bill is still being reviewed but will likely go before committee in late January or early February.

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