Mainers for Health Care rally outside the State House prior to Gov. Paul LePage's State of the State address, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in Augusta, Maine. The coalition that supported the successful Yes on 2 campaign to expand Medicaid in 2017 say LePage and his allies in the Legislature are trying to block Medicaid expansion, which is now state law. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

The Maine Department of Health and Human Services will temporarily open a Medicaid assistance call center in western Maine to help streamline enrollment in MaineCare.

The move comes as Gov. Janet Mills’ administration moves ahead rapidly with implementation of voter-approved Medicaid eligibility expansion.

The department will use $955,000 in existing department funds to hire 45 temporary employees to staff the Department of Labor’s Wilton Career Center for at least six months, acting DHHS spokeswoman Jackie Farwell said Monday.

The bulk hiring within DHHS to assist new MaineCare enrollees is the first since Mills signed an executive order on her first day in office directing the state to implement the Medicaid expansion law endorsed by voters in November 2017 but stalled by her predecessor, Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

Between January and March, nearly 8,800 people enrolled in MaineCare, according to the department, which is working to “streamline” applicants enrollment in MaineCare, as well as the state’s other human service programs.

Mills said the new call center will provide some reprieve to residents of western Maine who face the imminent closure of Barclays Call Center at the end of this month, when more than 200 employees will lose their jobs.

The Democratic governor said the new call center “will allow us to enroll people in MaineCare and offer temporary employment to people in western Maine at the same time, including some of those who are losing their jobs at Barclays.”

A job fair to fill the positions is scheduled for March 7 at the Barclays facility. Job training for the MaineCare call center’s new employees will begin April 1.

The new call center, which will be rerouted through the Office for Family Independence’s Customer Service Center, will be accessible at 855-797-4357 once it opens.