Feds: Stun guns used at Maine psychiatric center

AUGUSTA (AP) — A newly released report says federal regulators were horrified by the way patients were being subdued with stun guns and handcuffs at a state-run psychiatric hospital in Augusta.

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has warned that Riverview Psychiatric Center could lose $20 million in federal money — more than half its operating budget — unless the deficiencies are corrected.

Riverview Superintendent Mary Louise McEwen told the Kennebec Journal (http://bit.ly/13QMRZL ) that a plan to correct the deficiencies was submitted to federal officials.

She said stun guns were eliminated in May.

The 92-bed facility often houses criminals and people facing criminal charges.

Gov. Paul LePage blames the Democrat-controlled Legislature for failing to fund his proposal to alleviate problems at Riverview by creating a mental health ward at the state prison.

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Andrew Bilyeu's picture

Following up stun guns

Mr. Painter-- I appreciate your perspective and feedback. I am currently a forensic patient ( Not criminally responsible) residing on the upper saco unit of Riverview Psychiatric Center and my question was rhetorical. I wish I felt safe sharring my tragically ironic perspective of Riverview; however, both my fear of punitive retaliation and the risk of prolonging the uncertainty of my release, out weigh the current opportunity to educate the public.

JOHN PAINTER's picture

Yes, I was aware of that. I

Yes, I was aware of that.

I try not not leave matters of such importance to chance reflection in the community whenever I notice posts to behavioral health pieces in local papers. I've had more success in stimulating constructive discussion by directly engaging the public with straightforward information. You might find some outlet for your concerns through Disability Rights Center, or the Consumer Council System of Maine.

I wish you well in all the rights and responsibilities you carry in your recovery.

Andrew Bilyeu's picture

Stun guns?

Who approved the use of stun guns and who eliminated the use of the stun guns? I hope it is not the same person or we are in for a future of psychiatric care filled with impulsive decisions followed by knee jerk reactions. I thought the providers of mental health services are trained to treat the aformentioned behaviors?

JOHN PAINTER's picture

The Superindendant would have

The Superindendant would have had to approve the use of stun guns, because of the consent decree the Commissioner is immediately responsible. Maine law allows the use of noxious behavioral interventions on adults and children. I am not aware of any research that shows noxious interventions are better at correcting behavior than non-noxious ones. There are some wide differences in clinical and non-clinical approaches even amongst well trained professionals, let alone para professional staff who are often on the front line.

JOHN PAINTER's picture

As a psychiatric

As a psychiatric rehabilitation practitioner this is horrifying to read about and sadly not unexpected. While Maine has a number of excellent mental health organizations, practitioners, and very talented people in recovery from a mental illness and their families as advocates, Maine continues to suffer from poorly crafted public policy, and a race to the bottom funding structure.

In my experience I do not think there is a lack of money, rather there is a lack of focus and understanding within Maine’s DHHS about how to create a system of care predicated upon health and wellness. There is also a lack of realistic expectation and accountability of those of us working in behavioral health. There is also a lack of willingness to embrace evidence-based practices. The state has created a funding system where the least amount of money expended up front is rewarded, while the practices associated with the long term outcome of recovery (where the real cost savings are) are penalized, this is a race to the bottom structure which is unsustainable in long term costs and unconscionable in human suffering.

One of the most recent glaring examples of this to me, was Sen. Craven’s bill - LD 87. Though it’s original intent was to clarify in state rules peoples right (who had not been adjudicated otherwise) to choose where to live in the community and to choose service providers, the bill was altered by Maine DHHS a bill to expand housing, as a result a fiscal note was attached making it challenging to pass through the Legislature. Though the bill was ultimately concurred in both chambers, it is currently carried over. The bill was never about funding housing, it was about assuring peoples right to choose where to live, and choose which practitioners or agencies they can work with. It is a consistent and very low to no cost solution; respect people’s choices in behavioral health care.

Unfortunately I see an all too familiar theme’s in this report on Riverview; one of power and control over others.

If this cannot be addressed, I’m dubious about our states ability to meet the needs of any of us who, at any time, might be challenged with the experience of a mental illness.


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