The Maine Attorney General’s Office will ask a federal court to order that Riverview Psychiatric Center’s certification be reinstated after federal appeals officials last month refused to do so for a second time.

At stake is millions of dollars in federal funding for the 92-bed mental hospital.

Maine last month lost an appeal to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about the yanking of the hospital’s certification in 2013 by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Aug. 4 ruling, released Friday by federal officials to the Portland Press Herald after a Freedom of Information Act request, upheld a January decision by an administrative law judge with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that denied Maine a hearing on the decertification.

Riverview lost its federal certification in September 2013 after Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found problems at Riverview that included the use of stun guns and handcuffs on patients. A follow-up inspection in May revealed more problems, including improper record-keeping, medication errors and failure to report progress made by patients.

The administrative law judge ruled in January that Maine was not entitled to a hearing because it had missed filing deadlines and did not challenge the merits of the federal government’s decision to decertify the hospital. The three-member departmental appeals board agreed.

“The (administrative law judge) correctly rejected Riverview’s characterization and argument,” according to the 13-page decision released Aug. 4.


The Attorney General’s Office had argued that the state submitted proper correction plans, followed federal rules and made improvements to the center.

Timothy Feeley, spokesman for Attorney General Janet Mills, said Tuesday in an email response to questions that it “wasn’t entirely unexpected” that the appeals board would back up the law judge’s decision, “since they often uphold the department’s own rulings.”

“We contend the state was denied a hearing,” he wrote. “The state will be taking the next step of taking the matter to a federal court so this issue can finally be heard.”

The case would be heard in federal district court in either Portland or Bangor.

Rep. Richard Farnsworth, D-Portland, chairman of the Legislature’s health and human services committee, said Tuesday the odds are against Maine prevailing in federal court.

“After you get two rejections, the chances you would get a federal court to overturn it is pretty slim,” Farnsworth said.


However, he said, it’s worth trying, considering the millions in question.

Despite losing its federal certification to operate Riverview, Maine has continued to spend federal money on the hospital. But Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last month said that federal money used since September to operate Riverview would have to be repaid.

Exactly how much is at stake is in question, although it probably would be $11 million to $17 million, based on federal and state estimates.

In previous years, before Riverview lost its certification, about $20 million of the hospital’s $36 million budget was funded with federal money. The Legislature set aside $20 million this year in case the state lost that funding.

About half of Riverview’s patients are sent there by the courts after criminal prosecution, while the other half are civil patients.

Riverview has been trying to correct problems identified by federal inspectors in order to regain its federal certification. Even if Riverview obtains new certification, the hospital will have to repay the millions in federal money spent on the hospital since it lost its certification last year, federal officials told the Press Herald last month.

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