Northern Light Health celebrated the groundbreaking of a new 50-bed unit at Northern Light Acadia Hospital in Bangor in April. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

The construction of a new pediatric wing at a Bangor psychiatric hospital could get a $2 million boost from a funding package making its way through Congress.

The $2 million would provide some of the funding for the ongoing expansion at Northern Light Acadia Hospital that’s estimated to cost $49 million.

The project will add 50 single-occupancy rooms with pediatric beds and convert all of the hospital’s double-occupancy rooms to single-occupancy rooms. That change would allow Acadia — one of Maine’s two private psychiatric hospitals — to use all 100 of its beds at the same time, addressing a growing need for psychiatric care that has become more apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The $2 million is part of a draft funding bill for the coming federal fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1, according to Sen. Susan Collins’ office. The House and Senate still need to vote on the funding.

Collins, a Republican, is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The funding announcement came on the heels of Stephen and Tabitha King’s foundation donation of $1 million to support the work at Acadia Hospital. But Northern Light Health, the hospital’s parent organization, still has a ways to go to reach its fundraising goal for the work.

Some $10 million of Northern Light’s $15 million “Acadia For All” campaign will support the new pediatric wing’s construction. The agency had secured about $1.4 million toward that $10 million goal as of July 29, according to Christina Caron, director of philanthropy marketing and communications for Northern Light.

Acadia broke ground on the new two-story facility on its existing Stillwater Avenue campus in April. Construction is expected to be complete in December 2023 and open to patients in January 2024, according to Northern Light spokesperson Karen Cashman. The hospital remains fully operational and able to serve the community during construction. 

Though Acadia Hospital is licensed for 100 beds, Northern Light has said it can’t use all of them because it’s unsafe to place many patients together in the same room. The expansion will allow the hospital to use all 100 beds safely, further expanding the number of psychiatric beds available in the state. 

Maine has only 330 beds for those who need psychiatric care, and they fill up quickly, leading to a backlog of people waiting in hospital emergency rooms to get the care they need, Scott Oxley, senior vice president of Northern Light Health and president of Acadia Hospital, said in April. 

In 2021, there were 30 patients waiting for psychiatric care in Maine’s emergency rooms on average each day, according to Kara Hay, chairperson of the Northern Light Acadia Hospital board of trustees. In the first quarter of 2022, that number rose to about 50 patients. 

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...