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Maine: Funding not available to keep kids with behavioral issues out of jail

Aug 20, 2018, Bangor (ME) Daily News: Jail shouldn’t be only option for youth with behavioral health needs https://bangordailynews.com/2018/08/20/opinion/editorials/jail-shouldnt-be-only-option-for-youth-with-behavioral-health-needs/ Maine’s top court was considering whether a 17-year-old with a pattern of behavior that “clearly portends future crime” should be sentenced to Long Creek Youth Development Center, the state’s youth prison, until his 18th birthday. His initial offense was taking a scooter he knew to be stolen and damaging it by painting the number 420 on it. But before those charges had been resolved, he had already committed new crimes — destroying property at a local school…. Virtually all of those options noted by Saufley have diminished in recent years. The reality that there are few viable options for helping out a young person with clear behavioral health needs is a symbol of what has happened to a state system of behavioral health services that saw substantial investment in the late 1990s and early 2000s, only to be essentially neglected since. Funding for a whole range of children’s behavioral health services has remained stagnant for years. In 2015, the LePage administration proposed cuts so it could use the savings on services for disabled and elderly Mainers. Later, when lawmakers ordered the administration to commission a study to determine what the state should be paying for such services, the consultant the administration hired suggested reductions for a number of key services. With reimbursement rates largely stagnant over the past decade, providing in-home behavioral health treatment for children as well as more intensive services has become less and less viable for behavioral health agencies. …