Death of suicidal transgender teen was preventable, his mother says

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Tonight, a long-stewing court fight between the city and state is over; we found out who has been plastering the city with heart posters; and the developer of that controversial Munjoy Hill condo project downsized his plans, again. Let’s get into it.

What we’re talking about

Our media partners at Maine Public spoke with the mother of the teen who killed himself at Long Creek Youth Development Center, who said “her son’s mental health needs were going unmet and he was languishing in the facility.”

Susan Sharon reports:

But Michelle Knowles says what haunts her the most is that she believes Long Creek administrators had information that could have prevented his death. …

Knowles says from the time [Charles] Maze was 9 she parked a rocking chair outside the door to his room at night so she could monitor his every move. It was, she says, her way of making sure he was safe, that he took his medication and couldn’t harm himself. And when 16-year-old Maze, who was biologically born a girl, burned down her house and was sent to Long Creek in South Portland, she thought he would be safe. She says Long Creek staff assured her he’d be safe. That was back in August.

“There were multiple issues the child had presented right up until going in. And I said, ‘We need to take care of this, you need to do some clinical work with this child,’ she said. “And they said, ‘Here’s [the] problem. They said the child is not a resident. The child is a detainee.’“

What that means, says Chris Northrup, a clinical professor with the University of Maine School of Law, is that Maze likely hadn’t been adjudicated, hadn’t had a trial or pleaded guilty to a pending charge. And Northrup, who directs the law school’s juvenile justice clinic, says unless a youth has been through court and formally committed, he or she doesn’t have access to education, vocational training and cognitive behavioral programming that residents do. …

“My child was just sitting there, languishing, languishing and waiting; waiting for some help to happen,” she says. “And he couldn’t tolerate it anymore.”

Read the full story here.

In other news

Portland settles lawsuit with state over withholding General Assistance — This came in late this afternoon. The Maine Department of Health and Human Services and Portland reached a settlement in the city’s lawsuit over the agency withholding about $1.6 million in General Assistance reimbursement. DHHS paid the city about $1.3 million and agreed to drop its appeal of an earlier court ruling in Portland’s favor.

Here’s the deal with those paper hearts you’ve been seeing around town — No, it wasn’t the Valentine’s Bandit, the organizer insists. Troy R. Bennett writes:

In the wee hours of Monday morning, the Portland Love Project — a Facebook group dedicated to sharing ideas and links to social advocacy projects in and around the city of Portland — sent out group of 15 people with the mission of posting 12 different heart designs around the peninsula. The group distributed about 250 hearts, all told.

Four of the designs proclaimed “my friend” in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. There were also hearts dedicated to causes including autism, disability and transgender awareness.

“Basically, anyone who felt targeted by this fearful presidential campaign,” said Portland Love Project organizer Laura Tennenhouse of Portland.

Following our reporting that Portland is not a sanctuary city and has a policy of cooperating with federal immigration authorities (See sections 2-21 to 2-30.), Mayor Ethan Strimling and Police Chief Michael Sauschuck released statements late Tuesday repeating these facts and assuring Portlanders that the city is a safe, welcoming place.

“The Portland Police Department cooperates with federal partners when our assistance is requested and we will continue to do so,” said Sauschuck. “But it is not our practice nor will it be our practice to stop people in Portland and ask their immigration status.”

“In response to recent fears that the city of Portland will cooperate with the Trump administration in the deportation of millions, I want to reiterate that Portland is a welcoming city and nothing has changed on the local level since the election,” said Strimling.

Developer to cut 2 stories from controversial Munjoy Hill condo project — Jake Bleiberg reports that the developer has agreed to make further concessions in a project that drew a ton of heat before it was even officially proposed to the city.

In a victory for those worried that a condominium complex planned for Munjoy Hill would obscure the view from a nearby park, the developer has agreed to shorten the building from six to four stories.

Despite not having been officially proposed to the city, the planned development at 155 Sheridan St. has faced months of opposition from the neighborhood. As originally planned the building would have risen above the lip of Fort Sumner Park, blocking the panoramic view of Portland and the Back Cove.

‘One person a day is dying from a drug overdose in Maine’ — In case you missed it, here’s Nok-Noi Ricker’s report yesterday on this sad milestone:

With 286 drug overdose deaths in Maine already on the books as of September, the state has already exceeded the record-setting drug-related death totals of last year, Attorney General Janet Mills announced Monday.

“One person a day is dying from a drug overdose in Maine,” Mills said. “I cannot stress how dangerous these drugs are.”

Maine saw a record 272 overdose deaths in 2015, and there were 208 overdose deaths in 2014, which was also a record.

Heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine or clandestine lab-made fentanyl have been linked to 195 or 68 percent of the drug-related deaths in the first nine months of 2016, according to a preliminary analysis compiled by Dr. Marcella Sorg, a University of Maine medical and forensic anthropologist who analyzes overdose deaths for the state’s attorney general.

The increase is mainly due to illicitly manufactured or nonpharmaceutical fentanyl and fentanyl analogs, but the number of deaths tied to other drugs also is increasing, Tim Feeley, spokesman for the attorney general, said in the statement.

Two Maine coffee roasters are finalists for Good Food Awards — Kathleen Pierce reports:

A few years ago, Tandem Coffee Roasters took this prize, paving the way for Maine coffee companies to win this West Coast-based honor. Speckled Ax tries again, after a gallant attempt last year. And this is the first go round for Bard Coffee, the high-end joe from the same owners as Wicked Joe Coffee Roasting Co., located in a green facility in Topsham.

The Big Idea

‘A State That Is of Two Minds’ — Wherein a Portland writer takes a trip into the 2nd Congressional District after last week’s election:

We’re told that we think in binaries. We cling to them, especially when having to make a binary decision. At least according to brain science. In Maine, despite the iconoclastic streak of the state’s voting populace and its support of independent candidates, we tend to be of two minds, like our nation itself: urban versus rural, white collar versus blue collar, coast versus country, south versus north, new economy versus old, liberal versus conservative, etc. On the same Election Day that brought Pious Ali, a Ghana-born Muslim, to the City Council in Portland, the Lewiston-Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce announced a public “gun raffle” of a custom-built AR-15. Was this a manifestation of that rural white fear we’ve heard so much about, timed as a tacit threat? The chamber president later resigned, claiming “a colossal error in judgment.” But still, the bedrock concerns of his district — labor, immigration, guns — made its sideways assertion.

Maine, like America, is of two minds, then. Should we make it three? I’d venture to say, as it really turns out, and contrary to our theories, we remain many chaotic minds at once, a cacophony that sometimes resolves to symphony and then distortion again. Sometimes even inside the mind of one voter.

Got any interesting story ideas, suggestions or links to share? Email Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@bangordailynews.com, or tweet @dsmacleod.

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Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the editor of BDN Portland. He's an Orland native who first moved to Portland in 2002. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.