The Maine Department of Labor will host a job fair Monday for former Merrymeeting Behavioral Health Associates employees who abruptly lost their jobs last week when the agency closed.

The job fair will be 9 a.m. to noon on Monday at Southern New Hampshire University, 10 Tibbets Drive, Suite 200 in Brunswick.

Merrymeeting, a Brunswick company, closed on April 1, leaving 170 workers unemployed without receiving advance notice.

“We have a team assembled, ready to assist those impacted by the layoffs at Merrymeeting Behavioral Health,” said Commissioner of Labor Jeanne Paquette. “Dozens of employers have reached out to hire these employees, and we hope to transition them to new jobs as soon as possible, with this job fair as a first step.”

Merrymeeting executive director James Talbott has blamed the closing on changes to Section 17, a part of the MaineCare code that pays for community support services for mental health patients. Community support includes assistance in daily living, such as reminders to take medication and helping with tasks like groceries, laundry and socializing.

But state officials and former employees doubt Talbott’s claims, saying that the agency had not suffered any cutbacks yet so there wouldn’t have been any immediate reductions in revenue. State officials estimate about 50 of 500 Merrymeeting clients would eventually have been affected by the changes to Section 17.

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services, starting Friday, will restrict Section 17 services to patients with schizophrenia or schizo-affective disorders. Department officials have outlined a number of exceptions, including recent hospitalizations and written appeals from physicians explaining why their clients need assistance from Section 17, which allows for unlimited services. Mental health patients can receive more limited community support from other sections in the MaineCare code, often times limited to a few times per month.

For more information, call 373-4000.

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