AUGUSTA (AP) – The state has failed to comply with numerous requirements of a 12-year-old court order to improve services for patients at the Augusta Mental Health Institute, a Superior Court judge said Friday.

In a 354-page decision, Superior Court Chief Justice Nancy Mills said state officials not only failed to meet the terms of an AMHI consent decree but should have acknowledged their failure.

“This is not a failure of funding. The evidence made clear that until the recent budgetary problems, money for consent decree purposes was consistently provided by the Legislature. This is a failure of management to get the job done,” Mills wrote.

“As of Jan. 25, 2002, the defendants were not in substantial compliance with the consent decree … Because of this conclusion, the (class-action) members and the people of Maine require answers to the following:

“1. Why have the defendants been unable to comply in almost 12 years with the consent decree, which specified compliance by Sept. 1, 1995?

“2. Why didn’t a representative of the defendants or the Office of the Attorney General have the knowledge, the foresight, the candor, and the courage to admit … that the defendants were not in substantial compliance?

“3. What should be done now?”

Mills gave no indication when the second part of her ruling, detailing enforcement measures to ensure the state complies with terms of the decree, may be released.

State officials signed the consent decree in 1990 to settle a class-action lawsuit complaining of deteriorating and dangerous conditions at the state psychiatric hospital.

The state has been held in contempt of court twice by two different judges for missing deadlines to make improvements in the mental health system.

Kathryn Monahan Ainsworth, a policy adviser to Gov. John Baldacci, said the ruling did not come as a surprise.

“We expected that would happen, to some extent,” she said.

Mills found problems in a number of areas.

“Patients who need hospitalization are denied admission at AMHI because it does not have the staff or the beds to accept the patients. Patients who are ready for discharge and whose discharge would make a bed available remain at AMHI because the resources they need to live successfully in the community are not available,” Mills wrote.

“People who live in the community require services and supports that are not provided because the defendants cannot identify or address those needs. People in crisis wait in emergency rooms for crisis workers who, with minimal education and training, are asked to do extraordinary tasks.”

AP-ES-05-24-03 1124EDT



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