Funding for rural hospitals helps our community

4 years ago

I grew up in Houlton. I’ve raised three children here. My wife, Joanne, and I have made Houlton our home. But living in Aroostook County hasn’t been without hardship. There have been times, raising our kids, where I was nervous about finding proper medical care. Maybe they were sick with the flu, had a bad fall on one of our horses or got injured playing sports, but either way, I had to think about how they could get the best care.

Yes, those of us who live in The County live in such a rural area because we like the peace and quiet. But we should not have to sacrifice access to quality health care because of it. A priority for me during my time in Augusta has been to make sure rural Maine has a voice in the State House. Rural hospitals are struggling in Maine, even though our communities rely on them for care, and they also provide reliable, stable, good-paying jobs to so many people. 

Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, and I worked on a bill called “An Act To Improve Rural Health Care,” which provides $600,000 in funding to Houlton Regional Hospital and will help Northern Light AR Gould Hospital in Presque Isle as well. This bill has been signed into law and will go into effect on Thursday, Sept. 19. 

The funding going to these rural hospitals will be useful in more ways than one. It will help the hospital care for a larger number of patients. With a larger capacity, that means Northern Light and Houlton Regional can treat more patients in a larger geographic area, which means that fewer people have to travel miles and miles to get the health care that they and their families need. This helps keep our communities stronger, safer and healthier. 

Another benefit of this funding infusion is that folks can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they have job security and a reliable paycheck. About 40 percent of rural hospitals in Maine are at risk of closing. This is concerning in more ways than one. Hospital closures directly harm the health and well-being of residents and put dedicated medical personnel and hospital staff out of work. It also means trouble for businesses that have popped up to support the hospital and its staff. Shutting down a hospital would mean shutting down a major center of commerce in the region, hurting people’s ability to put food on the table and keep a roof over their head. With this new funding, the folks at Northern Light and Houlton Regional Hospital, which are some of the largest employers in the region, will benefit from greater stability. And I know families like mine will breathe easy knowing that we can still count on our rural hospitals for care.

I have already heard from several people about what this funding means to them. Folks understand how this funding will have an immediate effect on our quality of life and the security of our community — a community that is a part of what makes the County great. 

As always, if you have any thoughts about how I can help support our towns and neighbors through my work in Augusta, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. You can contact me via email at, or by calling my office at (207) 287-1515.