Saturday, December 18, 2010

Maine mental health advocates want Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center to be closed

From WCSH-TV in Maine:

AUGUSTA, Maine -- Like many non-profits and special interest groups, Maine's chapter of the National Alliance On Mental Illness, NAMI, is hoping to have a voice in the next budget. Dec. 13, NAMI came out with 54 pages of recommendations on how to improve mental health care and save money.

The organization, that has a mission of serving those with mental illness and their families, is recommending that the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor (pictured) be closed.

NAMI Executive Director Carol Carothers says the state could serve Maine's mentally ill population better if it invested more money in what's known as Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams instead. They work with the individual needs of each patient on an outpatient basis. They cost a lot less than the hospital, and Carothers says there's a lot of research to support the idea that the mentally ill do much better when they're in the community with a lot of support.

According to NAMI, a year at Dorothea Dix costs $455,555 per year. One year of an ACT team costs $10,000 per year.

Carothers said, "I think we're caught in a Catch 22. People are stuck in the hospital because there aren't community services. There aren't community services because the hospitals cost so much money. At some point you have to break that cycle."

Linda Abernethy, the superintendent of Dorothea Dix, says she wasn't surprised to hear that recommendation. She says others have proposed closing the hospital before.

But she says the hospital is already working on creating efficiencies in administration to save money, and that closing the facility could mean some Mainers could fall through the cracks of society. Abernethy said, "These are individuals that have had frequent hospitalization and if intensive, longer term treatment is not available to them, then they can fall through the cracks of society."