More mental health advocacy groups are speaking out against Maine’s so-called progressive treatment program amid a flurry of media coverage of the Thanksgiving Day murder of Gabriel Damour in Poland.

Justin Butterfield, 34, of Poland is charged with the intentional or knowing or depraved indifference murder of his brother, Damour, 38.

Butterfield is expected to claim he was not in a criminally responsible state of mind at the time of the crime, according to his lawyer.

The brothers’ friends and family said there were several missed opportunities to get Butterfield, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia about four years ago, into a progressive treatment program.

The Consumer Council System of Maine, the Intentional Peer Support Advisory Council and the Maine Association of Peer Support and Recovery Centers said in a joint statement shared Monday with the Sun Journal the progressive treatment program is “forced outpatient commitment.”

The Consumer Council System and the Intentional Peer Support Advisory Committee are independent, state-funded groups that advise the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and other government agencies on matters related to mental health service “consumers” and intentional peer support, respectively. The Maine Association of Peer Support and Recovery Centers represents 11 peer-run centers throughout Maine.


The organizations reached out to the Sun Journal in response to a story published Sunday that looked at how the Butterfield case highlighted disagreements between advocates on how to provide treatment for people with serious mental illnesses.

Established in 2010, the progressive treatment program authorizes the Maine District Court to admit a person with a “severe or persistent mental illness” and who poses a likelihood of serious harm for involuntary hospitalization. Patients admitted to a PTP are also required under the law to follow a treatment plan that may involve medication or psychotherapy, for example.

Certain medical providers, law enforcement officials or a patient’s legal guardian can apply for an order from the Maine District Court to admit a person.

There are now about 80 people enrolled in a PTP, according to John Nutting of Leeds, who sponsored the 2010 law when a member of the state House of Representatives.

Under the PTP law, if a person admitted to the program does not follow their treatment plan, a judge can order they be “green papered,” or involuntarily hospitalized.

“This could last forever,” the organizations said. “This is a form of treatment at the most extreme end of coercion.”


Mark Joyce, the managing director of Disability Rights’ mental health advocacy program, said that while the PTP is the law, “we oppose these types of forced community mental health treatment laws” because there is little evidence that they actual improve outcomes.

Like Joyce, the organizations said the PTP could actually discourage people from seeking treatment.

“We want people to seek treatment when they are ready,” they said, “but if members of the public could see all the ways we force people into treatment, most would run from care, not to it.

“Maine’s community-based mental health system has serious access and capacity issues. Let us be clear, the solution is not more inpatient hospital beds. We need a robust community-based system that supports people in their homes/communities and is free from coercion.”

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