Maine DHHS Awarded $2M Federal Grant to Catalyze Behavioral Health Response and Community Resilience Following Lewiston Tragedy

AUGUSTA– The Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced today that it has received a $2,048,452 federal grant to support behavioral health, community wellness, and resiliency in the wake of the Lewiston tragedy on October 25, 2023.

The year-long grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The SAMHSA Emergency Response Grant (SERG) will supplement other state and federal funding for the response, helping to reinforce the on-the-ground behavioral health workforce, recovery for individuals and families affected by the tragedy, and community resilience in Lewiston and the surrounding communities.

“This federal grant will catalyze Maine’s response to the significant behavioral health needs of those directly and indirectly impacted by the tragedy in Lewiston,” said Governor Janet Mills. “I thank President Biden and the Biden-Harris Administration for their continued unwavering support for Lewiston and Maine as we continue down the road to healing.”

“Following the tragedy in Lewiston, we immediately set to work developing a plan based on input from Maine residents, communities, first responders, experts, and others to support ongoing behavioral health needs in the wake of the largest mass shooting in Maine history,” said DHHS Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew. “We thank the Biden Administration for this grant to catalyze community-led initiatives and best practices to help Maine residents and communities recover and rebound.”

Priorities for the funding are based on input from partners following a series of listening sessions that DHHS held with behavioral health providers, health care systems' leadership, members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and New Mainer communities, school staff, home-based providers, ethnic and community-based organizations (ECBOs), and other impacted parties. This funding will:

  • Expand community-based behavioral health workforce: Funds will be used to increase the number of on-the-ground behavioral health professionals available to engage in mobile crisis outreach, peer harm reduction, and Project Support You – an initiative of that supports first responders in de-escalating emergency calls and assists with first responder debriefing following an incident.
  • Launch a trauma-informed learning community: The learning community will provide training and skills for the workforce most directly connected to the populations affected by the shootings in Lewiston, including behavioral health and health care workers, educators, community workers, community officials and others. It will improve their ability to appropriately respond to and meet the needs of those they serve. The learning community also seeks to provide training to recognize and respond to front-line workers' own traumas, helping to “care for the carers” by promoting trauma support and resiliency among the workforce. This will be launched as a partnership between Maine DHHS, NAMI Maine, AdCare, and the Co-Occurring Collaborative Serving Maine.
  • Raise awareness of behavioral health resources valuable to long-run resiliency: Maine DHHS will use funds to leverage its StrengthenME platform to help amplify awareness of existing behavioral health resources through tailored and targeted messages that help normalize and destigmatize reaching out for help with mental health.
  • Support communications for priority populations: The grant will support the development of a website that consolidates community-developed and accessible information for members of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community who were particularly hard hit by the Lewiston events. Funding will also support ECBOs focused on serving the New Mainer communities of Lewiston with whole-family, culturally appropriate support for the many individuals experiencing retraumatization.

“The events of October 25, 2023, have had a dramatic impact on the health of our community, and have highlighted and exacerbated the need for more mental and behavioral health services,” said Jim Martin, Chief Executive Officer of Community Concepts, Inc., in Lewiston, which manages the Maine Resiliency Center. “The SERG grant will allow for increased access to these critical supports and will help fill gaps in the system of care that are desperately needed. This additional funding comes at a critical time and complements all of the recovery efforts happening across our community including the work of the Maine Resiliency Center.”

“Maine’s Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing community was shaken to the core by the tragedy that took place on October 25,” said Matt Webster, Grant Administrator, Maine Association of the Deaf.“We had to push through the grief and move into action. We have collaborated closely with Maine DHHS to ensure that this grant will provide greater resources toward raising awareness about our community, our distinct needs, and to ensure that we have an equal voice at the table, as we all work to build resiliency and supports for the months and years ahead.”

“Recovery from mass violence can be a long journey for victims, survivors, family members, and community members,” said Alyssa Rheingold of the National Mass Violence Center. “Fortunately, there are evidence-based trauma treatments that help people cope with post-traumatic stress, anxiety, grief, and depression and a network of trainers across national organizations that can offer guidance and consultation to helping organizations. This grant will help Maine connect mental and behavioral health providers to specialty training so they can best support the Lewiston and broader Maine community to foster resilience and healing in the coming years.”

For further information about the listening sessions that Maine DHHS held with partners across Lewiston and the surrounding communities in applying for the SERG grant, please see this report. Read more about the work that the Department undertook in the immediate aftermath of the events on the DHHS blog.

Resources and supports are available for anyone looking for help:

  • The Maine Resiliency Center is open to support individuals impacted by the events in Lewiston, with ongoing support groups and other events.
  • StrengthenME is the Department’s resource for stress management and resiliency resources that includes information on how to access services, via phone or text support, or through community connection.