AUGUSTA (AP) – Some of the 72 patients who moved this week from the Augusta Mental Health Institute to the new Riverview Psychiatric Center said they hoped the $31 million facility will be a boon to their treatment.

“It is brighter over there and it’s modern,” said Donna Savage, who has been a patient at AMHI for little more than a year. “For myself, as a client here, I see it as a move ahead.”

But she and other patients said that the people who work at the hospital are as much a factor in their experience at AMHI as the buildings in which they work.

Deputy Superintendent Jamie Morrill said the modern 92-bed hospital will boost staff morale as well as improve patient care.

Riverview offers 94 treatment and recreation programs on its “treatment mall,” he said.

The new building’s opening marked the end of AMHI’s 164-year history as a state psychiatric hospital. Some patients made the move from the old building to the new one on foot, walking in the warm sunshine, but most rode the short distance in unmarked vans.

Nursing Director Kathleen Whitzell said counseling was available for patients who were anxious about the move.

“It’s painful for some of the staff, too. One mental-health worker has been here 38 years, so she’s kind of sad today,” said Whitzell, a 26-year AMHI veteran.

The move coincided with Superintendent David S. Proffitt’s third day on the job. Proffitt was AMHI’s last superintendent and Riverview’s first. His office was one of the last to move.

Although the older hospital was obsolete, and over the years its reputation occasionally had been tarnished, Morrill prefers to remember it fondly.

“Think of the people’s lives that have been changed here,” he said. “It’s played such a positive part in Maine history.”

The old building is being renovated and made into state office space.

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