Maine Addiction Centers Say They Could Close Under New Payment Policy

May 31, 2018

Addiction treatment agencies with state Department of Health and Human Services contracts are weighing the implications of a new payment policy that some say could result in serving fewer clients amid Maine’s opioid crisis.

Bangor’s Wellspring agency operates a 10-bed detox center in Hampden, and executive director Suzanne Farley says she’s not sure whether her organization can continue operating under the state’s new fee-for-services policy that goes becomes effective July 1.

“It doesn’t look very promising right now,” she says. “And my board is aware of that, my staff is aware of that. I’m optimistic though that the state will try and help me figure out a way to sustain this operation. It seems like in good conscience they would want to. We still have people dying from opioid overdoses.”

Sheldon Wheeler, director of the Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services for DHHS, said all of the treatment centers should be familiar with the fee-for-services system, there has been no decrease in the agency allocations for those contract holders and that the new system provide greater access to addiction treatment services.

“I want to be very clear, there has been zero decrease in the agency allocations for those July 1 contracts, there’s been no reduction in their allocation and I will be very clear that we have some agencies who are applauding this move,” Wheeler said.

At the Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services, executive director Malory Shaughnessy says the new state policy eliminates regular state payments and replaces it with one that provides a less predictable revenue stream based on the actual number of clients served. She likened the new policy to a municipality deciding that it would only pay its firefighters if they were actually fighting a fire.