Congressional funding to help Maine mental health provider expand services
Congressional funding to help Maine mental health provider expand services

A central Maine mental health provider plans to expand services to five clinics in the region thanks to $750,000 in federal funding included in a spending package Congress passed over the weekend.

Kennebec Behavioral Health is expected to use the funds to support the array of mental health services offered at its comprehensive community behavioral health clinics in Augusta, Farmington, Skowhegan, Waterville and Winthrop.

The grant is expected to help change the way patients pay for services at the agency’s clinics, according to Tina Chapman, KBH’s senior engagement officer.

“It moves it from a payment perspective to a customer-focused perspective,” Chapman said in an interview. “It’s more of a holistic approach, so it’s based on the person’s needs, not who happens to be paying for the service.”

KBH, which also offers a variety of other mental health services and programs, has been developing its community clinic model since receiving a grant from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2021, Chapman said.

The clinics serve 6,000 to 7,000 people in central Maine each year, with many receiving more than one service, Chapman said. Many people come from vulnerable backgrounds, including veterans, LGBTQ youth and adults, released prisoners, and people with housing instability.

Mental and behavioral health services at the clinics include 24/7 crisis care, substance use disorder treatment and case management, among others.

The recent funding comes from congressionally directed spending, or CDS, appropriations sponsored by U.S. Sen. Angus King, R-Maine.

The grant was part of a $1.2 trillion package of spending bills signed Saturday by President Biden, just hours after the Senate passed it in an early morning vote.

“This is a big deal,” King said Friday in a phone call from Washington before the Senate vote. “I can tell you that from meeting people in Maine practically every day, the need for expanded mental health services is very high. It’s certainly coming out of the (COVID-19) pandemic, but more generally. Young people, seniors, people with substance use disorders and trauma.

King said he has made funding for mental health resources a priority and that he hopes to continue to address the issue at the federal level.

“What Kennebec Behavioral Health is doing can be a model,” King said. “I think this could be a great model for the state.”

Chapman said studies conducted six months after patients enrolled in KBH clinics showed a positive impact.

Since December 2022, the agency has surveyed 1,185 people, many of whom reported improvements in response to questions about their mental health, daily functioning and overall well-being, according to Chapman.

“This is a really smart investment for the state of Maine and for Senator King’s office,” Chapman said, “because we can show that it’s making a significant difference in the lives of the people we serve.”

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