Maine CDC Press Release

June 29, 2021

Maine CDC Reports Case of Powassan Virus

Rare illness caused by tick bite is Maine's first case in 2021

AUGUSTA — The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) has confirmed the states first case of Powassan virus infection in 2021. A Waldo County resident who likely became infected in Maine is recovering after spending time in the hospital.

Cases of Powassan are rare in the United States, with about 25 cases reported each year since 2015. Maine has identified 9 cases since 2010. Humans become infected with Powassan through the bite of an infected deer tick or woodchuck tick.

Maine CDC urges residents and visitors to take precautions against bites from ticks, as well as mosquitoes, which can similarly spread serious diseases. There are four viruses spread by ticks or mosquitoes in Maine. Besides Powassan virus, which is spread by ticks, infected mosquitoes in Maine can spread Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), Jamestown Canyon virus (JCV) and West Nile virus (WNV). All these viruses have similar symptoms, which may include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, seizures, and memory loss. Serious neurologic problems may occur, including infection of the brain or the membranes around the brain and spinal cord. Severe infection may result in death.

Deer ticks can also carry bacteria that cause Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and other illnesses.

Many people infected with the viruses carried by ticks and mosquitoes do not have symptoms. No specific treatment is available for these viral diseases. If you experience symptoms, call a health care provider as soon as you can.

The best protection against all tickborne and mosquito-borne diseases is to prevent bites. Prevent tick and mosquito bites by:

  • Wearing protective clothing, including long sleeves and pants.
  • Using an EPA-approved repellent on skin, and Permethrin on clothing for added protection.
  • Using caution in tick-infested areas. Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and stay in the middle of trails whenever possible.
  • Taking extra precautions at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes in Maine are most active.
  • Performing daily tick checks, especially after leaving tick habitat and after returning home.
  • Bathing or showering after coming inside. Also examine clothing, gear, and pets.
  • Draining artificial sources of standing water around the home. This is ideal habitat for mosquitoes to lay eggs.
  • Asking a veterinarian about tick bite prevention for cats and dogs, and vaccinating horses against EEE and WNV.

For more information:

October 15, 2021

Maine CDC urges precautions against ticks during outdoor activities this fall

AUGUSTA— The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC)urges residents and visitors to take precautions against disease-carrying deer ticks this fall. Maine experiences a second peak in adult deer tick activity in late September through November. Deer ticks are commonly found in wooded, leafy, and shrubby areas. This may include areas around the yard.

Deer ticks can carry the germs that cause diseases such as Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis. These germs spread through the bite of an infected deer tick. As of October 12, 2021, Maine CDC recorded 1,054 cases of Lyme disease, 559 cases of anaplasmosis, 163 cases of babesiosis, and 3 cases of Powassan encephalitis this year. This is a record high for babesiosis cases.

The most commonly reported symptom of Lyme disease in Maine is a “bull’s-eye” rash. Other common symptoms of tickborne disease include body aches, chills, fever, headache, and swollen lymph nodes. If you experience any of these symptoms, Maine CDC recommends that you mention a recent tick bite or time spent in tick habitat to a healthcare provider.

Take steps to limit exposure to ticks this fall. The following four strategies help prevent exposure to ticks and tick borne diseases:

  1. Know when you are in tick habitat and use caution.
  2. Use an EPA-approved repellent like DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  3. Wear light-colored clothing that covers the arms and legs and tuck pants into socks.
  4. Perform tick checks daily and after any outdoor activity.

For more information:

February 18, 2022

Maine CDC Warns of Potentially Tainted Infant Formula

Abbott Nutrition powdered formula distributed in Maine linked to illnesses in four children nationally

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) today recommended that consumers avoid purchasing or using certain Abbott Nutrition powdered infant formula after a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation linked contaminated formula to at least four cases of illness in children. None of the cases is in Maine, but some of the affected formula was distributed to Maine.

The powdered infant formulas have the potential to be contaminated with Cronobacter, a bacterium that can cause severe foodborne illness primarily in infants. Cronobacter infections are rare but are especially high risk for newborn infants.

The FDA, along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC) and local partners, is investigating four consumer complaints of infant illness related to products from Abbott Nutrition’s facility in Sturgis, Michigan. The FDA received the complaints between September 6, 2021, and December 18, 2021.All of the cases are reported to have consumed powdered infant formula produced at Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis facility. These complaints include three reports of Cronobacter sakazakii infections and one report of Salmonella Newport infection in infants. All four children involved in these complaints were hospitalized, and Cronobacter may have contributed to a death in one case.

The FDA advises consumers not to use Similac, Alimentum or EleCare powdered infant formulas if:

  • the first two digits of the code are 22 through 37 and
  • the code on the container contains K8, SH, or Z2, and
  • the expiration date is 4-1-2022 (APR 2022) or later.

The code is printed on the product packaging near the expiration date. Additional information on products made by Abbott Nutrition is available on its website: https://abbottnutrition.com/infant-and-new-mother

Consumers who purchased formula with these codes should stop using it and dispose of it or return it for a refund. Approximately 2,500 Maine households eligible to receive the formula through the Women, Infants, and Children’s nutrition program have been notified directly.

The FDA inspected the Sturgis facility. Findings to date include several positive Cronobacter results from environmental samples. A review of Abbott’s internal records indicates environmental contamination with Cronobacter sakazakii.

This is an ongoing investigation, and Abbott is working with the FDA to initiate a voluntary recall of potentially affected product. The FDA will provide updates should additional consumer safety information become available.

Products that do not contain the information listed above are not affected by this advisory. This advisory does not include liquid formula products or any metabolic deficiency nutrition formulas. Consumers can continue to use all product not covered by this advisory.

Parents and caregivers should never dilute infant formula and should not make or feed homemade infant formula to infants. If your regular formula is not available, contact your child’s health care provider for recommendations on changing feeding practices.

Cronobacter bacteria can cause severe, life-threatening infections (sepsis) or meningitis (an inflammation of the membranes that protect the brain and spine). Symptoms of sepsis and meningitis may include poor feeding, irritability, temperature changes, jaundice (yellow skin and whites of the eyes), grunting breaths, and abnormal movements. Cronobacter infection may also cause bowel damage and may spread through the blood to other parts of the body.

If your child is experiencing any of these symptoms, you should notify your child’s health care provider and seek medical care for your child immediately. Health care providers are encouraged to report any confirmed cases of Cronobacter sakazakii to the U.S. CDC.

More information on Cronobacter and infant formula is available on the U.S. CDC’s website.

February 22, 2022

Maine Leads Nation in Making WIC Transactions at Farms Easier

Nutrition program adds phone app to expand access to local produce

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) today announced that Maine is the first state in the nation where participants in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program can use a phone app to get fruit and vegetables from farm stands and farmers markets throughout the state. Participants can download the mobile-to-mobile app, called Bnft, to redeem benefits for produce from farmers certified for electronic WIC (eWIC) transactions.

Maine CDC launched eWIC in 2020, transitioning from paper food vouchers to an electronic benefit transfer card that could no longer be redeemed with Maine farmers year-round. This new transaction capability and barcode scanning process returns full choice to participants on where they buy their fresh local produce, beyond the WIC Farmer's Market Nutrition Program season of July 1 through October 31, and supports local agricultural businesses and farmers. The new benefit can be accessed using a smartphone or a web portal.

"Maine WIC families now have a unique opportunity to support local farmers," said Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. "This new option makes healthy Maine-grown food more available to those who can benefit greatly from it."

The WIC program works to improve the health and nutrition of women, infants, and children during critical times of growth and development. WIC provides healthy foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding support and supplies, and referrals to other services. Participants statewide receive WIC benefits through local WIC agencies in their communities.

The Maine WIC program serves more than 16,500 individuals. Pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, and infants and children up to age 5 are eligible. Single fathers and foster children are also eligible. Participants must meet income guidelines, live in Maine, and be determined by a health professional to be at "nutritional risk."

WIC participants without the Bnft mobile app can access a printable barcode through the Bnft website.

For more information about the benefits of WIC, how to enroll as a new participant, or to find stores that accept WIC, visit www.maine.gov/WIC.

Farmers seeking eWIC certification can visit maine.gov/dhhs/mecdc/population-health/wic/farmer/

February 24, 2022

Mills Administration Distributes More Than $9 Million In MaineCare Payments to Behavioral Health Providers to Bolster Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services

Additional support comes as Maine launches state’s first comprehensive crisis center

AUGUSTA - The Mills Administration announced today that, starting next week, it will begin distributing $9.3 million in monthly MaineCare payments to 442 mental health and substance use disorder service providers to support immediate workforce needs as the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) advances its long-term plan to ensure Maine people have access to high-value behavioral health care in their communities. DHHS is prioritizing the payments to bolster community-based services for mental health and substance use disorders that have been strained by the pandemic and its ongoing effects.

The $9.3 million in supplemental payments, which come from the biennial budget passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Mills, will strengthen behavioral health services for adults and children throughout the state -- including children’s home and community-based treatment, assertive community treatment, and substance use disorder services -- by helping providers pay their direct service workers at least 125 percent of Maine’s minimum wage, consistent with other provisions in the biennial budget. Payments will continue monthly through the end of the calendar year and amounts are based on each provider’s prior 12 months’ of claims for eligible services.

"While we started tackling the gaps in Maine’s behavioral health system before COVID-19, the stress of the global pandemic has taken its toll on Maine residents, their families and caregivers, and our system as a whole,"said Jeanne Lambrew, Commissioner of Health and Human Services. "Our aggressive implementation of short-term payments to support mental health and substance use disorder providers aims to bolster this critical support system during the COVID-19 public health emergency, keeping Maine people in their communities and out of jails and emergency departments whenever possible, as well as progress toward long-term, sustainable solutions."

The payments announced today are in addition to $50 million in bonus payments for direct support workers the Department has paid to behavioral health providers. The $50 million is part of $116 million in bonus payments the Department has now paid for more than 20,000 direct support workers providing a broad range of personal care, home health, and behavioral health, shared living, and community and work supports. The bonus payments are supported by the American Rescue Plan and represent a major component of the Department’s plan to improve access to high-quality services that help ensure Maine people of all ages, including those living with disabilities and behavioral health challenges, can remain in their communities.

Additionally, the Mills Administration announced today the opening of Maine’s first comprehensive Crisis Receiving Center, where Maine people experiencing a behavioral health crisis can receive expert, compassionate care in a welcoming, home-like environment and be supported by individuals with lived experience of mental health and substance use challenges. The Department of Health and Human Services contracted with Spurwink to develop and implement the Crisis Center, which will soon be open 24/7. Services can currently be accessed from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 7 days a week and provides an important alternative to hospital emergency departments and the corrections system. Located at 62 Elm Street in Portland, the Crisis Receiving Center is supported in part by an investment from the Governor and Legislature in the biennial budget.

As it seeks to strengthen crisis response, the Department also:

  • Opened Maine’s first close supervision residential facility in January 2022 to help manage and provide an alternative to incarceration for patients that do not meet the need for inpatient psychiatric care;
  • Created a Health and Justice team of behavioral health professionals to support mental health court dockets and coordinate care for adults with behavioral health disorders who have or are at risk for criminal justice involvement;
  • Expanded crisis support for youth and children including statewide expansion of the successful pilot of Crisis Aftercare in Aroostook County;
  • Secured a federal grant and began work improving Maine’s mobile crisis model to be multidisciplinary, include substance use crisis, and provide faster response times in the community; and
  • Launched development of a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic Model.

The FY22-23 biennial budget combined with the Governor’s proposed supplemental budget represent an investment of $140 million in behavioral health across the biennial. This includes $27.5 million, some already appropriated, for July 1, 2022 cost of living adjustments and funding to increase the adjustments to 4.9%, $800,000 for the DHHS Office of Behavioral Health to continue the Overdose Prevention Through Intensive Outreach Naloxone and Safety (OPTIONS) liaisons program, $1.7 million to provide parity with certain MaineCare payment increases, and $2 million for the DHHS Office of Child and Family Services to support services for homeless youth.

These investments in the biennial and supplemental budgets are in addition to over $33 million of one-time federal funding for mental health and substance use services the Administration has secured over the past year.

April 26, 2022

Maine DHHS Launches Online Resource for Families and Pilots New Tool for Mandated Reporters During Child Abuse Prevention Month

AUGUSTA— The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced today the launch of an online resource for Maine families and the pilot of a new tool for mandated reporters to submit concerns about child safety during Child Abuse Prevention Month in April.

In proclaiming April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Maine as part of a national awareness campaign, Governor Janet Mills urged Maine people to dedicate themselves to improving the quality of life for all children and families by working together to increase awareness of abuse and neglect and promote activities that support children’s social and emotional wellbeing.

“Maine people share the goal of ensuring that children grow up in a safe and stable environment that provides them with every opportunity to succeed,” said Governor Janet Mills. “My Administration is working with partners throughout the state to address the underlying issues that often contribute to child abuse and neglect and to support child protective caseworkers on the front lines in our communities. Prevention is the best way to protect children and strengthen families and succeeds when Maine people work together.”

“There is no higher priority for the Department and for the people of Maine than keeping children safe,”said Health and Human Services Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew and Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) Director Todd Landry. “Together, we can work towards preventing child abuse by strengthening programs and resources that support healthy and thriving families. We look forward to continuing to collaborate with Maine people, the Legislature, and the many partners throughout the state who are devoted to this critical work.”

Ensuring that parents and caregivers have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need helps promote the social and emotional well-being of children and prevent child maltreatment within families and communities. “Protective factors” that reduce the risk for neglect and abuse and support positive outcomes for children, youth, and families include knowledge of parenting and child development, parental resilience, social connections, and concrete supports.

To that end, the DHHS Office of Child and Family Services partnered with other Department Offices and state agencies to develop and launch this month Access Maine, an online guide of programs and resources tailored for families to connect them to services and resources. Access Maine includes information about meeting basic needs, such as nutrition and child care, as well as domestic violence support, mental health and substance use resources, and other programs, complementing Maine’s 211 directory.

Access Maine is part of OCFS’ Federal Family First Prevention Services Act plan, which expands prevention services to help keep children and families healthy and safe and prevent the need for children to come into the care and custody of the State. In September 2021, Maine became the first New England state to gain approval to implement Family First and will receive approximately $2.4 million in additional Federal funding annually.

Additionally during this Child Abuse Prevention month, OCFS is piloting a new online portal for selected mandated reporters to submit reports of suspected child abuse and neglect. The portal is available only to those categories of mandated reporters who are permitted under statute to make non-emergency reports electronically: medical professionals, hospitals and hospital staff, school personnel, and law enforcement personnel. OCFS is promoting the new portal with these professionals, with plans to expand the tool to all mandated reporters in the future.

Anyone in Maine, including mandated reporters, may continue to call the 24-hour Child Protective Hotline at 1-800-452-1999 to report suspected abuse or neglect.

The Mills Administration has upgraded the child protective hotline system as part of systematic improvements at OCFS, including replacing the decades-old Maine Automated Child Welfare Information System with a new system, Katahdin, in January 2022 on time and on budget, streamlining work and saving caseworkers’ time. The Administration also established a Background Check Unit to improve investigations and has made major changes to the intake process.

The new supplemental budget includes key initiatives and over $10 million to bridge gaps in the child welfare workforce, fill key staffing gaps, and implement recent child welfare recommendations from a range of experts. These recommendations align with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services’ Child & Family Services Strategic Plan to improve policies and practices to ensure child safety.

Recognizing that child safety is impacted significantly by forces outside of the child welfare system, the Mills Administration has also worked to address systemic challenges facing Maine. Upon taking office, Governor Mills prioritized responding to the opioid epidemic, expanding work to prevent drug use and enhance the availability of treatment and recovery resources – important initiatives as the pandemic has worsened the opioid epidemic both in Maine and across the country. Governor Mills also reestablished the Children’s Cabinet, which has made significant strides in supporting early childhood development as well as successful transition of youth to jobs and education.

As part of Child Abuse Prevention month nationally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau, and several partners have developed the 2021/2022 Prevention Resource Guide which provides more information for stakeholders and families and highlights examples of innovative prevention approaches being implemented by communities across the country.

April 27, 2022

Maine DHHS Announces Plan to Award $11 Million in Federal Funds to Home- and Community-Based Providers

New round of support from the American Rescue Plan complements rapid implementation of increased rates in the budget for direct care staff who serve older adults and people with disabilities

AUGUSTA— The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced today its plan to award $11 million in federal funds to home- and community-based service (HCBS) providers early this summer as part of a new round of support to help older adults and Maine people living with disabilities to remain in their communities.

Of this amount, the Department plans to award $5 million to HCBS providers to support their compliance with federal and state rules designed to ensure that individuals receiving HCBS enjoy the same access to and benefits of community living as people without disabilities.The MaineCare funding will help providers make changes to their policies, procedures, and facilities by a federal deadline in March 2023 to better support individuals in engaging in community life, controlling their personal resources, and seeking employment. The $5 million represents an increase of $3 million from the amount the Department originally proposed through its broader plan to invest in Maine’s HCBS system under the American Rescue Plan (ARP HCBS improvement plan). Pending Federal approval for the increase, the Department expects to award the full $5 million in June.

These HCBS services include a broad range of community and work supports for older adults and people with intellectual and physical disabilities, brain injury, and autism under MaineCare Sections 18, 19, 20, 21, and 29.

Second, the Department is seeking Federal approval to use the same American Rescue Plan funding for a one-time $6 million payment to support group homes for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Department is pursuing the MaineCare payment to this subset of HCBS providers in recognition of the significant toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on their operations and to support them in maintaining safe staffing levels. The Department will develop a simple, expedient methodology with public input to determine the award amounts per provider, with funds expected to be issued this summer.

“This latest round of support will bolster providers at a critical time as they recover from the pandemic and work toward changes that help advance health, independence, well-being, and fulfilment for Maine people living with disabilities,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “It also recognizes the valuable work of direct support staff who continue to provide compassionate and high-quality care that enriches lives in homes and communities throughout Maine.”

These payments align with the Department’s overarching HCBS improvement plan to improve access to high-quality services. A cornerstone of the plan is approximately $120 million in recruitment and retention payments the Department issued in February and March to HCBS agencies for bonuses to more than 20,000 direct support workers.The initiative included workers providing aging, behavioral health, and intellectual disability services. Agencies originally had until June 30, 2022 to make the bonus payments. As another measure of support, and in response to provider requests, the Department is extending the deadline to December 31, 2022. The extension will support this critical workforce by helping to retain current workers or recruit new ones to fill vacancies.

Developed in consultation with stakeholders, including providers and families, the ARP HCBS improvement plan reflects the consensus that the most immediate challenge facing Maine’s HCBS system is attracting and retaining direct support workers. As part of the plan, the Department is also supporting a direct support worker council in partnership with the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, developing career advancement pathways, making worker certification more portable, collaborating with the Maine Department of Labor and higher education on direct care worker recruitment and training, and pursuing other longer-term initiatives. The Administration summarized these and other workforce initiatives in a report (PDF) submitted earlier this year to the Legislature.

The bipartisan supplemental budget passed last week by the Legislature and signed by Governor Mills made additional appropriations to provide the Department with sufficient resources to ensure the wage component of MaineCare rates support 125% of minimum wage for direct care workers. These rates will take effect retroactively to January 1, 2022 for agencies that provide HCBS to older adults and persons with disabilities under MaineCare policy sections 12, 18, 19, 20, 21, 29, and 96, as well as state-funded programs under Sections 63 and 69 and chapters 5 and 11. Most providers of these MaineCare services may start billing at the new rates on May 4, while retroactive billing for group homes under Section 21 will become available on May 20.

Above and beyond the ARP HCBS improvement plan, DHHS is also making historic investments in the HCBS system to support MaineCare rate increases and improve access to services through expanded slots. The biennial and supplemental budgets for fiscal years 2022 and 2023 invests $159.1 million to increase MaineCare rates for HCBS waiver services for older adults and people with disabilities and brain injury.

These investments follow increased funding that the Governor has provided each year since 2019 to provide greater access to these services.

Despite the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic, over 10 percent more Maine residents were receiving services under the HCBS waivers and their state-funded equivalent (Section 63) in January of 2022 compared to January of 2019 (8,669 compared to 7,791).

April 29, 2022

Governor Mills Signs MaineCare Rate System Reform Law

AUGUSTA- The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced today that Governor Janet Mills has signed bipartisan legislation to enshrine into state law a new system for setting MaineCare payment rates that promotes equity, consistency, and transparency. The reforms support high-quality health care for Maine people and fair and sustainable reimbursement to Maine's health and social services providers.

The bipartisan bill, which was proposed by DHHS and improved by the Legislatures Health and Human Services Committee, codifies the Departments sweeping and unprecedented plan to transform MaineCare (Maines Medicaid program) rate setting from a fragmented, often outdated and arbitrary approach into a coherent, streamlined and data-driven system, now and into the future. The plan is a culmination of Governor Mills directive to DHHS on her first day in office to expand MaineCare and develop a plan to make the health coverage program for low-income people more accessible, affordable, and sustainable.

The Departments plan is grounded in a comprehensive evaluation of Maines rate system completed by the Office of MaineCare Services in 2021. This evaluation assessed the current system against best practices for provider reimbursement and other state Medicaid programs, identified priority services overdue for investment, and developed recommendations for the Department to act across all services covered by MaineCare.

The bill enacts a new stand-alone section of Maine law that creates a foundation and infrastructure to invest appropriately and equitably in MaineCare reimbursement.

"This legislation creates a strong, sustainable framework that will endure well into the future for Maines health coverage system that supports more than 380,000 residents," said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. It paves the way for MaineCare rates that are developed through a transparent, data-driven process that puts providers on an equal playing field, incorporates member input, and improves access to high-value services for Maine people.

The Departments bill was presented by Representative Michele Meyer (D-Eliot) and co-sponsored by Senator Ned Claxton (D-Androscoggin), Senator Marianne Moore (R-Washington), and Representative Abigail Griffin (R-Levant), the Chairs and Leads of the Legislatures Health and Human Services Committee at the time of the bills introduction.

This bill paves the way for a fair, transparent and comprehensive reevaluation of MaineCare rates that will help to assure access to high-quality health care for Maine people, said Senator Ned Claxton and Rep. Michele Meyer, chairs of the Health and Human Services Committee. We appreciate the extensive input from stakeholders and the work of the Department of Health and Human Services that led to this bills successful passage.

MaineCare rate reform has been a very high priority for the Health and Human Services Committee, said Senator Marianne Moore and Rep. Kathy Javner (R-Chester), who resumed her role as House Republican lead on the Committee following the bills introduction. We have heard from numerous stakeholders that change needed to happen. The passing of LD 1867 was the result of valuable collaboration among legislators and the Maine Department of Health and Human Services and we look forward to the real reform it will bring.

The bill advances the Administrations MaineCare reforms by directing DHHS to:

  • Establish MaineCare reimbursement rates according to defined principles and processes, including benchmarking to other payers rates, adhering to a regular schedule for reviewing rates, reviewing relevant data such as provider costs and national best practices, and considering factors such as the degree to which a particular service is dependent on MaineCare reimbursement
  • Establish a clear and transparent process for conducting rate studies, including public notice, public presentation and comment on proposed rates, and a public response to comments, including how feedback was incorporated
  • Make annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for services that have not received a rate adjustment in the prior 12 months, according to appropriate criteria for calculating COLAs
  • Establish an expert advisory panel to inform technical matters relating to MaineCare rates, such as rate review schedules and payment models, to codify provider and stakeholder involvement in the process
  • Consider ways to promote greater value in MaineCare, such as through alternative payment models that tie reimbursement to provider performance

This law will have significant positive impact by creating a transparent and structured approach to establishing MaineCare payment rates for health care services guided by data, technical advisory expertise and providers of MaineCare services, said Lisa Harvey-McPherson RN, Northern Light Health Vice President of Government Relations. We thank the Legislature and the Governor for supporting this important legislation.

LD 1867 represents a collaborative approach with providers, mapping out a process to ensure that MaineCare rates across a broad spectrum of health care services remain cost effective, while also keeping pace with the evolvingand increasingly complexhealth care needs of Maine people, said Darcy Shargo, CEO of the Maine Primary Care Association.

When MaineCare rates pay enough to support strong provider participation, it means our health care system is easier for Mainers with low incomes to access, said Kathy Kilrain del Rio, Advocacy and Programs Director for Maine Equal Justice. We are hopeful that the thoughtful process created by LD 1867 for the regular review and adjustment of rates will lead to a stronger provider network for the many types of services needed by MaineCare members across the state."

The biennial and supplemental budgets invest $700 million in federal and state funds in MaineCare rates, including rate increases to support 125 percent of minimum wage for direct support worker wages, make one-time COVID-19 supplemental payments, and implement recently concluded rate studies.

Since taking office, Governor Mills has expanded health care to more than 94,000 people through MaineCare expansion. In total, the program provides health coverage to over 380,000 Maine people, or one in four residents.

She has additionally preserved health coverage protections for Maine people, including those with pre-existing conditions; launched CoverME.gov, Maines new Health Insurance Marketplace, with more than 66,000 Maine people selecting plans for 2022, an increase of more than 10 percent over the previous year; cut Maines uninsured rate to 5.1 percent, below the national average; lowered health care costs for nearly 6,000 small businesses and over 47,000 of their employees and families; and expanded access to dental care, reproductive health care, and more.

May 2, 2022

Take Precautions Against Browntail Moth Hairs When Outside

AUGUSTA – The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC), Maine Forest Service (MFS), and 211 Maine remind Maine residents and visitors to watch out for browntail moth caterpillars and to take steps to limit potential health risks caused by the caterpillars. These caterpillars shed tiny hairs that can cause a skin reaction similar to poison ivy. When the hairs become airborne, they may be inhaled and cause trouble breathing.

As people head outside for recreation and yard maintenance, they face increased risk of contact with the toxic hairs. During the past two years, Maine Forest Service has seen evidence of browntail moth infestations in all Maine counties. The greatest risk for exposure to the toxic hairs is between April and July when the larger caterpillars are active. The hairs can land anywhere, including on trees, gardens, lawns, outdoor furniture, and decks. They also float in the air. The hairs remain toxic in the environment for up to three years. Activities such as mowing, raking, and sweeping can stir up the hairs.

Most individuals affected by the hairs develop a rash that lasts for a few hours up to several days. In more sensitive individuals, the rash can be severe and last for weeks. Inhaling the hairs may cause respiratory distress in some people. The rash and difficulty breathing result from both the toxin in the hairs and barbs on the hairs that cause them to become embedded in the skin and airways.

Treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and eliminating ongoing exposure. There is no specific treatment for the rash or breathing problems caused by exposure to browntail moth hairs.

Browntail moth caterpillars are easy to identify. They are dark brown with white stripes along the sides and two red-orange dots on the back. Younger caterpillars lack these white stripes.

Browntail winter web photo

Browntail moth winter web

Browntail moth cocoon photo

Browntail moth cocoon

Browntail moth caterpillar photo

Browntail moth caterpillar

Steps Mainers can take to protect themselves from browntail moth hairs:

  • Avoid places infested by caterpillars. Visit the Interactive Browntail Moth Dashboard to see activity in your area.
  • When performing activities outdoors that may stir up caterpillar hairs:
    • Aim for damp days or spray vegetation down with a hose. The moisture helps keep the hairs from becoming airborne while you are working.
    • Cover face with respirator and goggles.
    • Tightly secure clothing around the neck, wrists, and ankles.
  • Take cool showers and change clothes after outdoor activities in infested areas.
  • Dry laundry inside to avoid hairs embedding into clothing.

For more information:

May 5, 2022

Maine CDC Issues Advisory on Eating Freshwater Fish from Seven Waterbodies

AUGUSTA- The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) today issued new freshwater fish consumption advisories on seven waterbodies in Maine. The new advisories come after testing of fish in these locations found levels of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) above Maine CDC's recently updated recommended levels for regular consumption (PDF). As noted below, the advisories recommend limiting or eliminating consumption of all fish or certain fish species from these waterbodies.

Elevated levels of the PFAS called perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS) were detected in fish samples from the Police Athletic League Ponds and Fish Brook in Fairfield, Messalonskee Stream in Oakland and Waterville, Durepo Reservoir and Limestone Stream in Limestone, sections of Mousam River and Estes Pond in Sanford, Unity Pond in Unity, and the lower Presumpscot River in Westbrook. The new fish consumption advisories apply to game fish caught in these waterbodies:

Area Waterbody Consumption Advisory
Fairfield Police Athletic League (PAL) Ponds Do not eat any species of fish.
Fairfield Fish Brook, including any tributaries, from the headwaters to the confluence with Messalonskee Stream Do not eat any species of fish.
Waterville/Oakland Messalonskee Stream from the Rice Rips Dam in Oakland to the Automatic Dam in Waterville Consume no more than three meals per year of any fish species.
Limestone All of Durepo Pond and Limestone Stream from Durepo to the dam near Route 229 in Limestone Consume no more than three meals per year of brook trout and do not eat smallmouth bass.
Sanford The Mousam River from below the Number One Pond Dam to Outlet Dam on Estes Lake, including all of Estes Lake Consume no more than three meals per year of any fish species.
Westbrook The Presumpscot River from Saccarappa Falls in Westbrook to Presumpscot Falls in Falmouth Consume no more than four meals per year of any fish species.
Unity Unity Pond Consume no more than six meals per year of black crappie and no more than 12 meals per year for all other fish species.

"As we continue to learn more about the health impacts of PFAS, these advisories reflect the best current science," said Nirav D. Shah, Director of the Maine CDC. They focus on specific areas where higher levels of these chemicals have been detected.

Maine has over 6,000 lakes and ponds, and over 32,000 miles of rivers and streams. This limited advisory on seven waterbodies is a responsible step in keeping anglers, their families, and friends healthy, said Judy Camuso, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Fishing is extremely popular, providing healthy outdoor recreation for roughly 360,000 people who are licensed to fish in Maine. We will continue to work with the CDC and other state agencies in order to keep Mainers, visitors, and our fish and wildlife populations healthy.

Fishing in these seven waterbodies remains a safe activity, in accordance with the consumption advisories, along with other recreation such as swimming, wading, and boating.

PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals found in a variety of consumer products throughout the world. Based on studies of laboratory animals and humans, exposure to certain PFAS chemicals has been associated with changes in liver and kidney function, changes in cholesterol levels, decreased immune response to vaccines in children, complications during pregnancy, and increased risk of kidney cancer and possibly testicular cancer.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) collected and tested fish from these waterbodies for PFAS because they are located where historical PFAS contamination has been found in groundwater, surface water, and/or soils.

In addition to the waterbodies mentioned above, Maine CDC is reviewing data from several other waterbodies where elevated PFOS levels in fish tissue have been found. Testing for PFAS in those waterbodies may not result in consumption advice more restrictive than the existing statewide advisory due to the presence of mercury in fish or other waterbody-specific advisories. The Maine CDC recommends that anglers review all existing fish consumption advisories on Maine waters.

Maine CDC is consulting with the DEP and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to develop plans for additional sampling of fish as part of the states ongoing investigation of PFAS.

The Mills Administration has taken an aggressive and nation-leading approach to addressing PFAS contamination in Maine. Upon taking office in 2019, Governor Mills convened a PFAS Task Force that has led to the establishment of an interim drinking water standard for PFAS; screening levels for PFAS in soil, wastewater, fish tissue, and milk; containment and reporting requirements for firefighting foam containing PFAS; as well as wastewater sludge testing requirements. Governor Mills has also signed into law legislation that prohibits the spreading of PFAS-contaminated sludge on land in Maine, that bans the use of PFAS in food packaging, and that expands the statute of limitation for Maine citizens to file claims for PFAS contamination. The Mills Administration, with the support of the Legislature, has also dedicated more than $100 million over the past two years to address PFAS, including $60 million for a PFAS Trust Fund to help impacted farmers and $30 million for PFAS remediation that includes $10 million to for farmers, $15 million to provide safe drinking water, $5 million for environmental testing, and $5 million for managing PFAS-contaminated waste. The State of Maine also continues to expand its testing of land, water supplies, and wildlife.

For more information about the fish consumption advisories and PFAS, please go to:

Maine CDC PFAS Fish Consumption Advisory FAQ (PDF)

Maine CDC PFAS Technical Support Document (PDF)

Maine Department of Environmental Protection PFAS page

May 9, 2022

Maine CDC Marks Lyme Disease Awareness Month

Be 'Tick Wise' to prevent tickborne diseases

AUGUSTA - The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) urges Maine residents and visitors to be "Tick Wise" during Lyme Disease Awareness Month (PDF) this May.

Preventing tick bites is the best way to avoid a tickborne disease. Deer ticks in Maine can carry germs that cause diseases in people and animals, including Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Borrelia miyamotoi disease, and Powassan virus disease. These ticks are often found in wooded, leafy, and shrubby areas, meaning most Mainers are at risk every day. Anyone spending time outdoors should take steps to limit their exposure to ticks.

Ticks are already active in Maine this season, which begins in early spring and lasts through late fall. Follow these strategies after every outdoor activity to become Tick Wise and prevent tickborne diseases:

  • Know tick habitat and use caution in areas where ticks may live.
  • Use an EPA-approved repellent like DEET, picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  • Wear light-colored clothing that covers the arms and legs and tuck pants into socks.
  • Perform tick checks daily and after any outdoor activity.

Health care providers reported more than 1,500 confirmed and probable Lyme disease cases to Maine CDC in 2021,as of March 25, 2022.The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a bulls-eye rash anywhere on the body. Other common symptoms include joint and muscle pain, fatigue, chills, fever, headache, and swollen lymph nodes. Some of these symptoms resemble COVID-19 symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to a health care provider. Make sure to mention a recent tick bite or time spent in tick habitat.

Maine CDC provides many resources to help Mainers be Tick Wise, including:

The University of Maine Cooperative Extension Tick Lab offers tick identification and testing to Maine residents. Tick testing is available for $15 with a three-day turnaround time. This is for surveillance purposes only. Contact a health care provider for concerns about tickborne illnesses. Find more information at ticks.umaine.edu.

May 19, 2022

Maine CDC Congratulates 2022 Lyme Disease Awareness Month Poster Contest Winners

Winning entries highlight this year’s ‘Tick Wise’ theme

AUGUSTA — The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) today announced the winners of the 2022 Lyme Disease Awareness Month poster contest. Maine CDC holds the contest each year for Maine students in kindergarten to eighth grade.

The year’s winners are:

  • Samantha Landry, 1st Grade, Stratton Elementary School
  • Maisy Emery, 3rd Grade, Spruce Mountain Elementary School
  • Anna Moffett, 5th Grade, Spruce Mountain Elementary School
  • Alexander Pierpont, 7th Grade, Oceanside Middle School

Congratulations to all the winners, as well as honorable mention awardee:

  • Addie Knieser, 4th Grade, Stratton Elementary School

Students designed posters on the theme “Tick Wise.” Each poster illustrated at least one tick prevention tip:

  • Know tick habitat and use caution in areas where ticks may live.
  • Use an EPA-approved repellent.
  • Wear protective clothing.
  • Perform tick checks daily and after any outdoor activity.

Maine CDC selected a winner from each of four grade groupings: K-1st, 2nd-3rd, 4th-5th, and 6th-8th grades. Winners received a Maine State Parks family day pass and tick removal kits for all their classmates. Visit Maine CDC’s website (www.maine.gov/lyme) to view the winning posters.

Maine CDC thanks all participants for their contributions to Lyme Disease Awareness Month.