AUGUSTA – On the same day opponents of Republican Gov. Paul R. LePage gathered at the State House to attack him for problems at Riverview Psychiatric Center, the 92-bed state-run forensic psychiatric hospital received full accreditation from the Joint Commission.
“As a result of the accreditation activity conducted, there were no requirements for improvement identified,’’ the Joint Commission’s Chief Operating Officer Mark G. Pelletier wrote, according to a Department of Health and Human Services press release distributed Thursday.
The Joint Commission, a non-profit organization responsible for accrediting more than 20,000 health care facilities in the United States, announced Riverview’s full accreditation following an unannounced visit to inspect the facility and ensure areas of improvement identified during previous inspections had been addressed.
Earlier in the day, a host of Democrats gathered at the State House to stage a press conference accusing LePage of not addressing previously known problems with the mental facility. Democrats present at the press conference included Senate Majority Leader Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) and Rep. Richard Farnsworth (D-Portland), but also Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant.
“Where is the governor?” Jackson said, according to a Maine Public Broadcasting Network report. “We hear nothing on this issue. For someone who likes to talk a lot about things, we don’t hear anything on this issue. So for me it really is something that I’m concerned about because I wouldn’t really want to be a worker put in that type of a position. I certainly wouldn’t want to be a patient put in that type of position.”
Riverview Superintendent Jay Harper said in a press release he hoped the full accreditation of the facility by the Joint Commission would assure patients and their families that necessary changes have been made and quality care is being provided. Harper also acknowledged attempts by Democrats to make political hay out the issue.
“It is rather ironic that we received this notification hours after a politically driven press event that failed to recognize the many changes that have been made in personnel and policy at Riverview Psychiatric Center,’’ said Harper.
“The continued accreditation by this independent, well-respected and non-political agency speaks volumes and should be heard loud and clear,” he said. “RPC is improving, the culture is changing and our staff continues to work tirelessly to move RPC toward its goal of becoming a center of excellence.”
Today’s events followed a recent report by the liberal-leaning Maine Sunday Telegram on an allegedly dysfunctional working culture at the hospital, and a legislative committee’s bipartisan decision to further investigate the facility.
Riverview was built in 2003 and opened to patients in June of 2004. It is the state’s only forensic psychiatric hospital. In 2013, Riverview cost the state more than $31 million to operate, according to the 2012-2013 annual report.
LePage is up for reelection this fall against Democrat U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud and independent candidate Eliot Cutler.