Melissa Violette leads a recent music therapy session in Safe Harbor, a secure residential unit for people with memory loss at Birch Bay Retirement Village in Bar Harbor. ISLANDER PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

MDI music therapists seek MaineCare coverage

BAR HARBOR — Three nationally certified music therapists on Mount Desert Island are among only seven in the entire state. But their numbers likely will grow if a bill now before the Legislature becomes law.

It will provide MaineCare coverage for music therapy services provided to Medicaid and Medicare recipients in the state. But there is a catch: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will have to approve the coverage.

The bill to authorize MaineCare reimbursement, introduced Feb. 28 by Rep. Scott Hamann (D-South Portland), defines music therapy as “the clinical and evidence-based application of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals for clients of all ages and ability levels for purposes of assessment and treatment.”

The Legislature’s Committee on Health and Human Services has scheduled a hearing on the bill for Monday, March 20.

Music therapy can have physical, cognitive and emotional benefits for people with various diseases and disorders, including Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, cerebral palsy and Parkinson’s. It is often used in the treatment and rehabilitation of people who have suffered a stroke or traumatic brain injury and for children with developmental disabilities.

Carla Tanguay, a music therapist in private practice in Mount Desert, and Melissa Violette, the music therapist at Birch Bay Retirement Village in Bar Harbor, served on a task force formed in 2014 to increase public awareness and understanding of music therapy, improve access to music therapy services and promote legislation to provide Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement for those services. Task force members worked with Hamann on the language of his bill.

“Without MaineCare reimbursement for music therapy services, some clients are scrimping and saving to pay for, what for them, is a necessary health care service,” Tanguay said. “They have found that the measureable benefits of music therapy are worth the financial hardship.”

Suze-Andree Altidor Cespedes, a certified music therapist who recently moved to Bar Harbor from Montreal, said that in addition to providing access to music therapy for more people, the proposed law would “place the profession into the mainstream and protect the community from non-accredited, non-certified and unofficial practices.”

“Insurance coverage … would allow practitioners to collaborate with other health professionals who take part in health care programs already offering insurance coverage for their clients.”

A story about the three MDI-based music therapists and the services they provide will be in a special supplement called “Staying Well” in next week’s Islander and Ellsworth American.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the date of the legislative committee hearing on Hamman’s bill.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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