Many thanks to Reps. Erin Herbig and Richard Mallaby for their column on funding for developmental disabilities (”Raise rates, end waitlists for most vulnerable adults,” June 14). They have both worked tirelessly to ensure access for those with developmental disabilities — which is critically needed.

At the same time we must recognize that the same crisis for access to services is happening in the behavioral health and substance abuse disorder arena. Right now there are 501 vacancies in community mental health services — representing 15 percent of the workforce.

That means close to 4,000 people are not getting the mental health and addiction recovery services they need. It means community programs that provide direct services are closing. It means people who need help to end their addiction, or to successfully live in the community, or to receive and manage medication that allows them to survive, will go without.

It is true that rates equal pay for workers equals access to services. Across the board.

If we raise one set of workers’ rates and not the others, it will create an inequality in the workforce that will drive workers to one system, leaving the other in more of a crisis. We should not choose who among the most vulnerable is the most deserving in Maine — brain-injured residents or people with schizophrenia, a child with autism or a child with debilitating bipolar disorder. That is and has been the governor’s agenda. It is a “Sophie’s choice” moment we don’t have to make. We need to take care of all vulnerable citizens. The time is now. And we have the money. Let’s do the right thing — for all Mainers.

Betsy Sweet

Behavioral Health Community Collaborative


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