The public health organization Healthy Acadia and officials from Hancock County are working on a written agreement that should have Healthy Acadia’s opioid recovery coaches back working with inmates in the county jail on Friday.
The agreement will revive the recovery coaching program after it was put on hold seven months ago when Sheriff Scott Kane barred Healthy Acadia from working at the jail because it issued a statement in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement. Kane has characterized Black Lives Matter as an anti-law enforcement group that has called for violence against police officers and said he was offended by Healthy Acadia’s statement.
The county and the Ellsworth nonprofit Monday morning agreed to work out a memorandum of understanding that would restore the program, William Clark, chairman of the county commission, and Healthy Acadia Executive Director Elsie Flemings said that after they met with Kane and Capt. Tim Richardson, the jail administrator.
The agreement should be ironed out in the next few days, Clark said, enabling Healthy Acadia recovery coaches to return to the jail on Friday. The coaches are peer mentors who start working with inmates while they’re incarcerated and help them navigate their recovery once they’re released.
“We had a good meeting,” Clark said.
Kane declined to comment Monday afternoon.
Flemings said Monday that the meeting was productive and that Healthy Acadia is looking forward to providing recovery coaches to jail inmates and to again having “a positive, mutually respectful working relationship” with the county.
Aside from the disagreement over Healthy Acadia’s racial equity statement, both Flemings and Kane said they previously had a good working relationship and share the goal of helping inmates overcome their addictions.
Last week, Kane said he and jail administrators worked to find another recovery coaching program provider after the sheriff terminated Healthy Acadia’s agreement last June. But the county went for months without finding one.
The county appeared last week to have lined up another provider, Groups Recover Together, to revive the program but a day after the county commissioners put out a public agenda that included signing an agreement with that company, an official with the firm said it would be unable to provide the service because of “competing strategic priorities.”
The county commissioners — who oversee the jail budget and all aspects of the county’s finances, but who do not have a say in how the sheriff runs the jail — met Saturday in an emergency session to discuss the matter. They said at that meeting that Healthy Acadia would meet with county officials Monday morning in hopes of working out a new agreement.