A coalition representing long-term care facilities is calling for additional state funding to prevent more nursing homes and rehabilitation centers in Maine from closing.

The group launched the Who Will Care? campaign Monday at the Maine State House, requesting $31 million in additional state funding that’s not in the budget proposed by Gov. Janet Mills. If approved, the $31 million would be matched with $62 million in federal funds, infusing $93 million into the system.

The lack of beds available in long-term care facilities is causing hundreds of patients to stay in hospitals longer than necessary, when they could have been discharged to a care facility.

The Mills administration has pointed to an immediate investment of $10 million in the proposed budget to support the nursing home workforce, and additional investments totaling $50 million per year to help nursing homes in the coming years.

Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and state Sen. Rick Bennett, R-Oxford, are leading the call for more funds. The coalition includes the Maine Health Care Association, which represents long-term care facilities before the Legislature, the Alzheimer’s Association and other health care groups.

“Over a quarter of residents in Aroostook County are 65 years old or older. The County and other rural parts of the state have a significant need for nursing homes, but they continue to close because of underfunding,” said Jackson in a news release. “The time to act is now.”


Bennett said in a statement that “it is clear that the past approach of one-time supplemental payments is not working, and Maine needs to make a serious, concerted effort to save its nursing homes.”

Nursing home operators pressed for more money during a legislative hearing Monday about the Department of Health and Human Services budget. Nursing home advocates said 23 homes have closed in the last 10 years or so, including nine in the past few years.

Lindsay Hammes, DHHS spokeswoman, said in a statement that the Mills administration is working on comprehensive reimbursement rate reform that will help nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

“The health and wellbeing of Maine people with long-term care needs is critically important to the administration,” Hammes said in a statement. “Demand for long-term services and supports is high in Maine, which has the oldest median age in the nation. As such, Maine DHHS has prioritized efforts to strengthen the system and the workforce at its heart to improve the health of older Maine people and those with disabilities.”

Those advocating for nursing homes acknowledged that the Mills administration is working on rate reform, but said more assistance is needed now to prevent closures during a workforce shortage.

“We know legislators on both sides of the aisle care, and now our residents, their families, and our staff are calling on them to show their passion and commitment with a meaningful investment that will stop these closures,” said Angela Cole Westhoff, executive director of the Maine Health Care Association, which represents 200 long-term care facilities.

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