AUGUSTA — The state announced Friday that the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has recertified Riverview Psychiatric Center, and the state-owned facility in Augusta will resume receiving federal Medicare reimbursement.

“Riverview is a crucial component of our mental health system and this renewed federal support will only enhance its quality of care,” Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement. “The recertification is a testament to the dedicated staff at Riverview who remain committed to providing the expert care that patients need and deserve.”

The recertification will bring as much as $20 million a year to the state in federal Medicare reimbursement payments that are retroactive to Jan. 30.

The 92-bed Riverview facility was decertified by the federal government in 2013 for a number of deficiencies, such as the use of stun guns and pepper spray, the improper use of restraints and seclusion of patients, poor record-keeping and medication errors. Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage claimed in March 2017 that the decertification was an act of political retaliation by former President Barack Obama. But even after Obama left office and Republican President Trump took over in 2017, the hospital continued to lack its federal certification.

In 2014, a federal official told the Portland Press Herald that the LePage administration was not allowed to draw down Medicaid money for Riverview because the facility had been decertified. But the state did so anyway for more than three years, at the rate of about $3.5 million to $4.6 million per quarter, according to a June 7 letter to the state from Richard McGreal, associate regional administrator in the CMS Boston office.

And in June 2017 federal officials were demanding that Maine repay $51 million in federal money that the LePage administration was forbidden to spend on the operation of Riverview Psychiatric Center. Maine has been improperly using the federal money since 2013, according to a federal health official.

“This recertification marks an important milestone in Riverview’s development as a center for best practices and compassionate treatment, a conscientious employer, and a partner in the community,” Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew said in a statement. The hospital’s current superintendent, Rodney Bouffard, praised the facility’s staff “for the work they have done to bring the hospital into compliance and improve the lives of our patients.”

State House leaders also expressed relief the hospital had regained its federal certification.

“For far too many years, the operations of Riverview have cast a dark cloud over the mental health systems of Maine,” House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, said in a statement. “Today marks the incredible progress achieved by Superintendent Bouffard and the hardworking and devoted women and men who work at the facility.”


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