AUGUSTA — A state proposal to build a new 21-bed rehabilitation facility next to Riverview Psychiatric Center to treat patients who have committed crimes will go to a public hearing before the Augusta Planning Board on Tuesday.

Application materials for the proposal state it would house patients “found not criminally responsible for committing crimes by reason of mental defect or insanity and, therefore, cannot be housed within either a state prison or a state psychiatric facility.”

The proposal is part of a state Department of Health and Human Services effort to regain federal certification for Riverview and the $20 million annual federal funding reimbursement that comes with it.

The federal agency that oversees Riverview funding revoked the hospital’s certification about two years ago after regulators found many 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.

The new facility would take forensic patients from the 92-bed Riverview facility who do not need hospital-level care, relieving pressure at that facility.

In August 2015, Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew said creating a new, separate treatment facility for mentally ill patients who have committed crimes might be the only way for the state hospital to regain that certification.

In May 2015, Gov. Paul LePage submitted a bill seeking funding for a 50-bed Behavioral Assessment Safety Evaluation, but that bill died.

The new standalone facility would be privately operated with the state seeking companies to submit bids to run the unit, according to Samantha Edwards, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services.

It would also be built by a company selected through a bid process. Application materials state a company has not yet been selected. Work, if approved, could start this fall and be complete in 2017.

Five construction firms have submitted information about their qualifications to express interest in bidding on the project, according to David Heidrich, spokesman for the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services. The Bureau of General Services, which is within that department and oversees state building projects, is the applicant proposing the project to the city.

The facility would be secure to prevent patients from escaping.

“This is to be considered a secure facility and will be constructed utilizing methods and materials that eliminate the opportunity for escape, self-harm or injury to others,” state application materials filed with the city by Stantec, a consultant representing the state in the application process. “The design provides for ease of casual monitoring as well as the use of cameras, alarms and electronic locks.”

The state estimates it will cost $3 million to $5 million to build.

It would be built adjacent to Riverview on an area that is now parking lot and grass next to the state-owned offices of the east campus on the grounds of the former Augusta Mental Health Institute.

The property is zoned as BP — Institutional/Business/Professional by the city. Government services are an allowed use within the zone.

A city staff review indicated there were no areas of concern about the project, and staff recommend board members find that it meets standards, which include neighborhood compatibility; resource protection; road congestion; aesthetic, natural and cultural values; and is in compliance with city ordinances and plans, according to a memo to the Planning Board from Matthew Nazar, director of development services, and Betsy Poulin, assistant planner.

The Planning Board meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Board members are also scheduled to hold public hearings to consider:

• A proposal, tabled at previous meetings, to review a major subdivision application from W.R. Rhea Associates LLC for a proposed six-lot subdivision on 20 acres with five house lots and a vacant undeveloped lot. The Blair Road property is in the Planned Development 2 District;

• A proposal tabled from August 9 for a conditional use application from Kenneth Knight for a proposed expansion of a non-conforming use, an automobile business, on North Belfast Avenue in the Rural Ponds District. The project includes partial demolition of an existing building;

• A conditional rezoning application from Evelyne Levitt for a medical office at 133 Northern Ave. in the High Density Residential District;

• Holding a workshop to discuss proposed land use ordinance revisions at the request of the City Council, prompted by concerns over the potential sale of the St. Mark’s property. Discussion topics, according to the meeting agenda, could include definitions and land use chart revisions for group homes, boarding homes, rooming houses, homeless shelters, sober homes, and religious activities and associated uses.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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