AUGUSTA — A Maine man who’s attacked Riverview Psychiatric Center staff members and a police officer has been ordered to an out-of-state, privately operated facility that officials hope can better handle his violent outbursts.
The decision was revealed Monday as Anthony Peter Reed, 40, was placed in the custody of the commissioner of the Department of Health & Human Services following a hearing at the Capital Judicial Center.
But placing Reed at the Columbia Regional Care Center in South Carolina is also touching off broader concerns about care for mentally ill patients in Maine. While testifying that the South Carolina facility would offer the security and treatment that Reed needs, Riverview clinical director Brendan Kirby said, “I think it is outrageous he does not have access to a secure unit in Maine that can meet his needs.”
Justice Michaela Murphy noted several times that Reed has been acquitted twice of assault charges at Riverview because he was deemed not criminally responsible for his actions by reason of insanity and that the plan for his treatment and detention out of state is “very unusual.”
“The court remains concerned that this not set any kind of a precedent,” Murphy said from the bench. “The court has found Mr. Reed to be not criminally responsible, and he should be placed in the custody of the commissioner and placed in a facility in Maine capable of handling him.”
John Martins, a spokesman for the Department of Health & Human Services, said by email Monday that the decision “to place any person out of state is based on the availability of adequate and appropriate care and not cost.”
In the same email, Martins also said the department and the LePage administration continue “to press for a separate facility to be built for clients found not criminally responsible and other forensic patients, providing the services they need and freeing up resources for people with mental illness who do not come to the state psychiatric hospital via the criminal justice system (civil patients). This would also alleviate the pressure on the county jails and ensure the individual is receiving services in the most appropriate environment.”
Martins said the department initially sought to have that need fulfilled with a new intensive mental health unit at the Maine State Prison, “but the Legislature watered down the legislation and prohibited those not criminally responsible and incompetent to stand trial from being treated there. That original proposal needs to be reconsidered.”
Also later Monday, state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Androscoggin, co-chairman of the Legislature’s Health & Human Services Committee, pointed to legislation last session that would have created a separate forensic facility — separate from Riverview — for those individuals found not criminally responsible for offenses.
“I hope there will be future opportunities to look at creating a separate facility,” Brakey said. “The problems at Riverview have been really hanging over our state for some time.”
Reed, who has a history of violent outbursts, remained in shackles during the hearing Monday, and seven court security officers were ranged around the courtroom while the hearing was underway. Reed’s attorney, Scott Hess, asked why the state could not instead set up a small unit and accommodate Reed at Riverview.
Kirby noted the hospital lost its certification from the federal Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services because of inappropriately secured patients. The federal agency, which oversees Riverview funding, found numerous problems during an audit, including the use of stun guns, pepper spray and handcuffs on patients, improper record-keeping, medication errors and failure to report progress made by patients.
“CMS came into the hospital, saw the use of corrections officers and the use of restraints … and said, ‘This is not a hospital,'” Kirby said Monday from the witness stand.
That scrutiny resulted in the federal government cutting off annual reimbursements to Riverview as of September 2013, a contentious decision that could cost Maine taxpayers more than $30 million in the short term and potentially more in the future. In August, a federal judge ruled that the state lost its chance to appeal that decision. While the hospital lost its federal certification, it remains licensed to operate.
Mary Mayhew, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services, said in August that the LePage administration still seeks a solution to satisfy the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services and that creating a new facility for so-called forensic patients — those who have killed, assaulted or committed other offenses but been found criminally insane — is the only certain way to obtain certification.
Advocates for the mentally ill are concerned such a new facility would operate more like a prison and less like a treatment center, and that DHHS may privatize mental health services.
Riverview has 92 beds with those almost evenly divided between patients who are there as a result of civil commitment procedures and forensic patients.
Kirby said that state law specifically prohibits placing individuals in the special mental health unit at the Maine State Prison — the one site that could handle Reed — if they have been found not criminally responsible for offenses.
Murphy said Reed will continue to have a Maine attorney, Hess, and that the court is depending on the department to ensure the two remain in contact.
Reed’s father, who was in the courtroom Monday, was concerned about that as well, submitting a letter to the judge.
“The court is certainly not making a finding today that (the South Carolina facility) is an appropriate institution for the care and treatment of mental illness,” Murphy said, adding that the Maine court would retain jurisdiction of Reed.
Reed’s placement in the Columbia Regional Care Center in Columbia had been anticipated for some time, and transport officers from that state were in court watching the hearing and preparing to imminently drive Reed there. The South Carolina center, operated by Correct Care Solutions, is “the only private detention healthcare facility in the United States,” according to its website.
On Monday, Assistant Attorney General Molly Moynihan questioned Kirby about the out-of-state facility and its mission. Kirby said he visited the facility Nov. 20, and that while most of the building is devoted to caring for patients from South Carolina, there are two units — one medical and one psychiatric — accepting federal placements and out-of state placements of people “whose dangerousness goes beyond that which could be dealt with in a hospital.”
In response to questioning by Reed’s attorney, Hess, Kirby said he saw nothing there that conflicts with Maine’s consent decree, a document outlining how the state is to treat people diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness.
Kirby said that the unit where Reed would be housed used restraints two to three times this year and used seclusion, sometimes known as lockdown, as well.
Reed interrupted then to say in a somewhat hoarse voice, “I’ve been locked down for 10 years.” He has been shuttled between the Maine State Prison in Warren and Riverview Psychiatric Center as well as the Kennebec County jail in Augusta.
On Monday, Murphy found Reed not criminally responsible for an assault on Steven York, a recreation therapist at Riverview who was interviewing Reed at the Kennebec County jail on May 14, 2014.
According to the probable cause affidavit by Ryan Reardon, currently interim Kennebec County Sheriff, a DVR recording shows Reed lunging at York from a seated position 4 to 6 feet from York. Reed “was in five-point restraints, which means his hands were handcuffed together, his ankles were shackled together, and his handcuffs had been run through a heavy leather belt that was secured to his waist,” according to the affidavit.
Reardon said a deputy partially deflected Reed. Otherwise, York would have been hit squarely on the chest and sustained more than just a few red marks. Reed then made some comments, including racial epithets, and spit in York’s face as Reed was led from the room.
In March 2010, Reed was sentenced to two years behind bars for an attack on the Rev. James Weathersby, a chaplain at Riverview, and Evert Fowle, the district attorney at the time, said the assault was motivated in part by racism. Weathersby, who is black, spent months recovering from his injuries.
“Mr. Reed has very severe mental illness, and he’s violent and he’s volatile,” Fowle said at that time. “The crime was 100 percent motivated by the fact that Mr. Weathersby is African-American. This is virulent racism combined with very significant mental illness.”
In December 2013, Reed previously was found not criminally responsible for attacks on three mental health workers that occurred at Riverview in April 2012. However, he was not immediately placed at Riverview, and his attorney charged that the Department of Health & Human Services “had failed to comply with the court’s order to place Mr. Reed in an appropriate facility for the care and treatment of persons with mental illness.”
At the time, Hess asked the court to hold the state in contempt. In motions filed with the court, Hess sought a non-correctional setting for Reed “where he will receive the same level of care and treatment that is afforded to forensic patients at Riverview.”
Reed was also convicted of assault on an officer in September 2004 in Cumberland County.
Betty Adams — 621-5631