Lawmakers Briefed On Riverview Crisis 

Wednesday, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew briefed lawmakers in Augusta on the financial crisis at the Riverview Psychiatric Center.

For the first time since August, lawmakers from the Appropriations Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee were brought up to speed on the sudden loss of $20 million in federal funding from the Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta.

Back in August, lawmakers were briefed on a plan to keep the funds from being stripped. As part of that plan, the hospital decertified 20 beds, exempting them from federal standards. Lawmakers also passed an emergency bill that sent some of Riverview’s forensic patients to the Maine State Prison in Warren.

But a surprise inspection by officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) uncovered what they said were more violations. Tops on that list; staff members working in both the decertified and certified sections of the hospital, which CMS said is not permitted. Mayhew and her staff vehemently disagree.

“To date we have not been able tie this concern to any federal rules governing the conditions of participation,” Mayhew told lawmakers.

Representative Deb Sanderson of Chelsea, a member of the Health and Human Services Committee, noted that the staff members that were singled out in the CMS report for working in both areas worked in the nursing, dietary and pharmaceutical fields and Sanderson said those findings are not an indication that the facility is under-staffed.

“These are things that as was said many times, did not affect the quality nor the care or the safety of the patients at Riverview,” Sanderson told reporters.

Mayhew would not elaborate on how the 92 bed facility will be funded after losing more than half its operating budget, but says she is confident the state will win its appeal.

“What they identified as a concern related to staffing could have continued to be an issue that we could have worked on collaboratively to address. It should not have led to a decision to terminate the certification of the hospital,” Mayhew said.

Meanwhile, Democrats on the committee accused Mayhew of not being transparent with lawmakers throughout the process and were not fully satisfied with her briefing Wednesday.

“We heard a lot of detail. We didn’t hear a lot of answers,” said Lewiston Democrat Mike Carey. “She talked a lot about how the department is managed but not what the dates are, who’s responsible and how much money it’s gonna cost to fix the problems the federal government says that Riverview has. And it’s gonna cost the state a lot of money.”

Mayhew says there’s no timetable on when the appeal will be heard as the government shutdown is making it difficult to reach CMS officials.