Mother's struggle paints picture of Maine's mental health system

7:10 PM, May 10, 2013   |    comments
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BELFAST, Maine (NEWS CENTER) --- A mother from Belfast has been locked in a tough fight as she tries to get long term psychiatric care for her mentally-ill daughter.

26-year-old JericaWallace suffers from schizoaffective disorder. That's according to her mother Melissa Wallace. She says time and time again she's had to keep her daughter at the emergency room at Waldo County Gneral Hospital because no psychiatric hospitals in the state can take Jerica.

Recently Jerica was kept at Waldo County General for four days due to a lack of open beds at other facilities.

"I'm scared..I'm angry..but most of all my heart is breaking," Melissa Wallace told NEWS CENTER early Friday, "please..please...give my daughter treatment," she begged.

Officials with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services say this is a problem many people are facing. There are only two state hospitals in the state and only a handful more that do screening for the mentally ill.

The superintendent at the Riverview Psychiatric Center, Mary Lousie McEwen, says her hospital has to reserve many beds for patients accused of committing crimes. As a result many others get locked out.

"We have lost the capacity to take the 48 civil patients that we're desinged to take because we have so many forensic patients," she said, "so right now we're working as a system to look at what other thigns we can do to open up civil beds."

Melissa Wallace's daughter was finally taken to Acadia Hospital in Bangor on Friday for treatment. At this point its not clear how long she'll be kept there.

McEwen says she intends to speak in favor of several bills being taken up in Augusta that would create new programs to treat the mentally ill.


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