photo by Andy Capwell

Augusta resident, Peter DeSchamp and his family live just over 1,300 feet from the new group home on Glenridge Drive in Augusta. The Mayfair neighborhood resident and a few other neighbors collected more than 150 signatures on a petition stating the group homes for 'so-called' forensic patients to cease operations. DeSchamp says in an interview with the Kennbec Journal, that since the group home opened, he's put new locks on his doors and is installing a security system.

These new groups homes on Glenridge Drive and Green Street in Augusta have replaced three group homes that closed 2 weeks ago that were on the former grounds of the Augusta Mental Health Institute. The move was made in part because while in the group homes on state property adjacent to Riverview the patients were dubbed by the federal government to be ineligible to receive Social Security benefits because they were considered to still be hospitalized. Now with the group homes off state property, they are eligible to receive benefits.

Mayor Stokes says those benefits are considered important because part of integrating patients back into society includes that they can be able to live independently. The mayor says mental health officials goal is treatment and to reintegrate these patients back into the community.

Augusta Mayor William Stokes and City Manager William Bridgeo argue that the city bears an unfair burden due to the Riverview Psychiatric Center being the only mental health center in the state to house forensic patients found not criminal responsible be reason of  mental defect or disease. The Mayor has met with DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew and he was told the department is aware that Augusta bears a disproportionate share of the burden and state officials are working on a long-term plan to address it.

Riverview opened in 2004 to replace AMHI and was designed to house 45 forensic patients and 47 civil patients. As of August 1, 2012, 57 forensic and 35 civil patients were at Riverview.

The new group homes that have opened are run by Motivational Services and no the residents in the group home receive the same amount of therapy and security as they did in Riverview. No known incidents have occurred since the group homes have opened.