On Tuesday, Sept. 20, the Bangor City Hall held a city council meeting for residents to express their concerns about Gov. Paul LePage’s plan to open a psychiatric facility on Hogan Road in Bangor.
The room was packed with approximately 70 people, many residents of either Hogan Road or nearby. Residents were angry that this proposal was thrown at them without any vote or discussion, and this was the first time since the announcement was made that they were given a place to express their concerns.
The forensic psychiatric facility, which would hold 21 beds, was proposed by LePage without any involvement from the state legislature. The patients to be housed in this facility are those who committed a crime but were either found not guilty or incompetent to stand trial.
The original plan presented to the legislature was to build the unit near Riverview Psychiatric Center, a state-run facility currently located in Augusta. Due to LePage refusing to answer any questions regarding this “step-down” facility, the legislature rejected his plan.
Riverview has also had several reports of mistreatment and violence, and accounts of being short staffed, which has built a bad reputation for the facility. These accusations resulted in a loss of federal funding after further investigation. LePage, however, has claimed that the Obama administration “retaliated” against him by conducting this investigation.
Riverview lost its federal certification after separate audits found problems in the facility. Stun guns, pepper spray and handcuffs were being used on patients, and there were instances of improper record-keeping, medication errors and failure to report progress that patients were making, according to an article by the Portland Press Herald. There have also been reports of mismanagement, abuse and neglect.
By putting the location in Bangor, the governor argues that he does not need legislative approval, meaning that he does not need to answer questions regarding funding and staffing. It is unclear as to whether or not this will be run like a facility or a prison, according to an article published by the Bangor Daily News.
Paul Amoroso, a landowner near Hogan Road, expressed his concerns. He owns apartment complexes in the area of the proposed facility.
“I have 230 residents that will all be within a stone throw of the facility, and building this facility will throw away the worth of a company we have spent 35 years building,” he said. “Would you want this property near your home?”
This road houses many students from Husson University as well, and students stepped up to express their concerns about their safety. Many feel as though the building would put their safety at risk.
Another concern came from the elderly.
Mariam Bailey, a 90-year-old woman who rents a property in Bangor, said, “I have always felt safe on this property. In fact, I think I forgot to lock my door this evening,” she laughed. “But it’s such a shame that this facility will be built here. It is up to the governor to change his ways and put it in a safer place.”
Many Bangor residents recognized that this facility is needed, just not in or around the Bangor area. Some audience members mentioned that “with the proper care, they [the patients] are good people who have made mistakes.”
The message of the city council meeting was loud and clear: LePage needs to think about how the location of this facility will affect the community, the property value of surrounding properties and the residents.