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All Mainers need to join the struggle for stronger mental health care

Fighting for mental health services and support has turned into a global movement. In Maine, the state legislature has created many resources, laws and programs to support those affected by a variety of mental health disorders. From 2011 to 2015, the state of Maine’s annual average of mental health services used by adults 18+ and older was 7.8% higher than the national percentage, by which we can conclude that more adults have received these services. Although these numbers are high, there are still deficiencies in Maine’s mental health system.

According to the 2019 Maine Shared Community Health Needs Assessment Report, the cost of care is the leading reason for many individuals’ lack of medical help. In this report, some needs include care for pediatrics and home-bound adults, culture sensitive care, funding for community resources, transportation to care, wellness coaches and affordable prescriptions. These are crucial to making the mental health system succeed: it must be inclusive of all races, genders, sexualities, disabilities, ages, cultures and religions. 

Currently in Maine, Spurwink Services is one nonprofit which provides 37 homes for children and 18 homes for adults who struggle with mental health disorders. Spurwink also provides educational services for children with special needs in conjunction with mental health treatment. This is one example of an organization that serves multiple needs across many counties in Maine. 

The issue is not the programs themselves, but the cost of care and lack of funding provided by the government. According to McGeachey Hall Mental Health Center, the Maine state average for therapy at the lowest is $33 and as much as $346 (with insurance). Most patients attending therapy also see a psychiatrist in order to be put on medication, which may or may not be covered by insurance as well. Together, the cost of mental health care can cost an individual $66 to $692 a month if they see a therapist and a psychiatrist once a month. Most people cannot afford these expenses, especially when therapy sessions can range from every week to every two weeks.

Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services (Alliance Maine) is working with Maine legislatures to create legislation to improve mental health and substance abuse services. According to the committee’s policy agenda, they are working to promote investment in the behavioral health workforce, as well as mental health and substance abuse services. As of September, the committee is monitoring and supporting 78 bills and any concerns are being expressed.  

As students and/or residents of Maine, we can spread the word and encourage other organizations to donate funds to nonprofits like Alliance Maine in order to improve mental health services and perception in Maine. Mental health support is essential to every community, and ultimately saves lives. Together we can make Maine a national example of a community that supports its most vulnerable populations.

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