John Nutting, policy director for the Maine chapter of the National Shattering Silence Coalition, speaks about the state’s progressive treatment program during a news conference Friday at the Maine State House. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Members of a national advocacy group called on state officials Friday to expand the use of Maine’s progressive treatment program, a law they argued could be used to prevent acts of violence – like the Lewiston mass shooting – but that remains underutilized by police.

The National Shattering Silence Coalition has asked the commission investigating the shooting to look into why no one used the law to ensure Robert Card received treatment before he killed 18 people last October, former state legislator John Nutting said at a news conference at the State House on Friday morning.

“We don’t want them to only worry about how Maine can react to the next tragedy quicker,” Nutting said. “We want them to focus on preventing the next tragedy.”

Maine’s progressive treatment program, sometimes called the “green paper” program, allows medical providers, police or the legal guardian of a patient who suffers from severe mental illness and poses “a likelihood of serious harm” to seek a court order mandating that the patient follow a prescribed treatment plan. If the patient refuses treatment, they can be involuntarily hospitalized.

Unlike an earlier, more limited version of the law which said it could only be initiated immediately following a hospital stay, a new iteration passed in 2010 allows police and medical providers to use the statute preemptively, before ever having to involuntarily hospitalize a patient under Maine’s stricter “blue paper” law.

But according to Nutting, the progressive treatment program often is still only used after someone is involuntarily hospitalized. He said the Maine Department of Health and Human Services has resisted his calls to train police to use the green paper process more proactively.


A spokesperson for DHHS said the department implements the program in accordance with the law.

Some groups that advocate for people with mental illness argue that the expansion of involuntary treatment laws like the progressive treatment program would violate patients’ rights. They say there’s limited evidence that coercive programs work and argue that they can actually discourage people from seeking care.

But Nutting and other speakers Friday said the current system is failing to help people who don’t recognize that they are suffering from a mental illness and so refuse treatment.

“We’ve got nothing to lose,” said Joe Pickering, who described the difficulty of getting his son Chris to accept mental health treatment before his accidental death in 2020. “We’ve already lost.”

The organization asked to speak publicly in front of the Lewiston commission but Nutting said they were asked instead to submit materials in writing. Besides calling on the commission to expand the scope of their work, the group has asked officials to train police on the expanded green paper law and to fund the community-level mental health resources needed to support patients in the program.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.