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Mental Blocks MPBN News series

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Since the deinstitutionalization movement that began in the 1950s, Maine's mental health system has emphasized community-based care rather than hospitalization. But many involved in mental health say the system is fragmented, and that those who suffer the most sometimes fall through the cracks. Join MPBN News reporter Patty Wight as she visits the places people go to get mental health care in Maine, from jails and emergency rooms to psychiatric hospitals and community agencies.

Mental Blocks, Part 11: Maine's Evolving Mental Health System
01/08/2014 Reported By:Patty B. Wight  

Compared to other states, Maine offers a more than adequate supply of mental health resources. The problem, say some insiders, is connecting those resources to the people who need them.  Tonight, in the final installment of our series, Mental Blocks, Patty Wight reports on where some say improvements are needed most.

Mental Blocks, Part 10: Parents of Mentally Ill Adults Face Desperate Struggle
01/07/2014 Reported By:Patty B. Wight  

When you think about a safety net for people with serious mental illness, psychiatric hospitals and crisis services probably come to mind. But there is something else that's often overlooked: a parent's home. Some adult children with mental illness return home to parents who may not have the skills to support them, and no legal rights to know the details or provide input for their child's treatment. As part of our series, Mental Blocks, Patty Wight has the stories of three families who have each struggled to find care for their adult children, sometimes with tragic consequences.

Health Provider in Lewiston Innovates to Increase Access to Care
01/06/2014 Reported By:Patty B. Wight  
Alyssa Pelchat

Before the 1950s, people with severe mental illness in Maine typically lived much of their lives in psychiatric hospitals. But after the deinsitutionalization movement, those hospitals were downsized or closed. Maine's two state psychiatric hospitals went from a combined 3,000 beds down to the current level of just 140 or so. The idea was move those services outside the walls of the hospitals, and into the community. One community provider that employs an innovative approach to increase access to mental health care.

Peer Coaching Used to Combat Mental Illness
01/03/2014 Reported By:Patty B. Wight  
Ben Skillings and Mark Wheeler

It may be hard to imagine life without a phone, but imagine not having someone to answer your call. That's how some people with severe and persistent mental illness feel when they're in distress: as if there's no one they can call for help. As a result, they turn to local ERs, and some individuals check in more than a hundred times per year. As part of the MPBN News series, Mental Blocks, Patty Wight meets a man whose job is dedicated to cutting down these ER visits just by picking up the phone.

Respite Care an Important Tool in Recovery of Mentally Ill Patients
01/02/2014 Reported By:Patty B. Wight  
Forrest Blair

When it comes to mental illness, many say having a peer to lean on is just as important as having a good doctor. There are a number of peer support programs across Maine, but only one has respite beds. Those beds offer an alternative to emergency rooms and crisis centers when someone is in emotional distress. Coupled with peer support, respite services can serve as the missing piece needed for recovery from mental illness. The Learning and Recovery Center in Brunswick is a good example.

Portland Agency Assists Mentally Ill With Housing
12/31/2013 Reported By:Patty B. Wight  
Ed Blanchard

Maine's system for treating people with severe mental illness is hampered by two bottlenecks. One for those trying to get in, and one for those on the way out, back into the community. The process of getting out of the hospital setting relies heavily on the availability of what's called "supported housing," in either apartments or group homes. Observers say there just aren't enough spots to the fill the need. One non-profit agency in Portland, Shalom House, is helping people with serious mental illnesses find independence and stability.

Riverview Psychiatric Center Takes in Patients From the Criminal Justice System
12/30/2013 Reported By:Patty B. Wight  
Riverview hallway

Those with mental illness are more likely to be victims of crime than perpetrators. But, in Maine, when they do commit serious crimes, they are often sent to Riverview Psychiatric Center in Augusta as forensic patients. How Riverview manages their treatment is one of the major challenges facing the state hospital, which just lost more than half its budget for failing to meet federal standards for care. Even some within Riverview say the hospital is at a crossroads.

Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center Treating Mentally Ill Patients For More Than A Century
12/27/2013 Reported By:Patty B. Wight  
Dorothea Dix

It was more than a century ago that Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center opened its doors, a brick, mansion-like building perched on a hill overlooking Bangor. Its one of two state psychiatric hospitals that offer long term mental health treatment, and was named for a Civil War nurse and activist from Maine who worked to improve the lives of people with mental illness. As part of our series Mental Blocks, Patty Wight explored some of the challenges the hospital faces in carrying out its mission to improve the lives of its patients.

Mental Blocks, Part 3: One Mother's Struggle to Help Her Child
12/26/2013 Reported By:Patty B. Wight  

Emergency rooms and private psychiatric hospitals:  those are the front lines for anyone having a mental health crisis. It's where people with severe and persistent mental illness are first sent for treatment, before possibly moving on to a long-term facility. Finding the right psychiatric hospital can make a big difference in a patient's ability to live with mental illness. But getting admitted can be a lengthy, challenging process. Today, in our ongoing series Mental Blocks, we learn how one mother struggled to get the care she needed for her teenage daughter.

Mental Blocks, Part 2: Rethinking Emergency Care for Maine's Mentally Ill
12/24/2013 Reported By:Patty B. Wight  

When you have a medical emergency, you typically head to the nearest emergency room, where you expect to be treated and - if necessary - admitted to the hospital. But what if you have a mental health emergency? That, too, often means a trip to the ER. But for some of these patients the wait can be several days or even weeks to get treatment. In part two of our special mutli-part series, Mental Blocks, Patty Wight brings us the story of one emergency room that's using an innovative approach to dealing with the mentally ill.

Mental Blocks, Part 1: Needing a Psychiatric Bed, Ending up in Jail
12/23/2013 Reported By:Patty B. Wight  

Maine spends more per capita on mental health services than almost every other state. Still, there are big gaps in the system. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, only about a third of Maine adults with serious illness are getting the help they need. We'll explore the consequences of those barriers over the next two weeks in a multi-part series, "Mental Blocks." Our first story takes us to the Penobscot County Jail, a common destination for people with persistent and severe mental illness. Patty Wight has more.

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Maine State Mental Health Expenditures graph

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