PORTLAND, Maine — The new head of Maine’s youth prison will come to the troubled facility from an organization that works to help young people with substance abuse and mental health issues.

Caroline Raymond, the CEO of Day One, has accepted the position of superintendent at the Long Creek Youth Development Center.

Raymond will take over the post left empty when Jeff Merrill II abruptly resigned in March, after being placed on leave amid a now closed but still unexplained investigation.

The Department of Corrections has since been conducting a national search for someone to lead the South Portland facility that in the past year has struggled to cope with poor morale, staff turnover and a pattern of violent and destructive behavior from a population of severely mentally ill young people — including its first suicide in decades.

But Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick said the best person for the job ended up coming from Day One, which has its headquarters in South Portland.

“She was the best candidate even among those from the national search,” Fitzpatrick said of Raymond. “I think it was a combination of her management skills and clinical background.”

Raymond’s start date has not yet been set, but she likely will remain with Day One for at least 60 more days, Fitzpatrick said. She did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Raymond will come to Long Creek after nearly two decades with Day One, according to a statement from the organization. She did not list any previous work for any corrections facilities in her profile on a professional networking website but did spend about 10 years working in and with Long Creek through Day One.

Raymond is a certified clinical supervisor, a licensed alcohol and drug counselor and a licensed clinical social worker, according to Day One’s website.

Fitzpatrick said his priority for Raymond, once she starts at Long Creek, will be to work collaboratively with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education.

State approval for the school at Long Creek was imperiled earlier this year when the threat of budget cuts caused the facility to lay off nearly half of its teachers, including all of its qualified math instructors. Those teachers have since been hired back, but at least one other faculty member has left Long Creek.
As of last July, about 85 percent of youth committed to Long Creek had three or more diagnosed mental health conditions and nearly one-third came to the prison from a residential mental health treatment facility.

And the strain caused by these youth, who guards are not trained to treat, has caused infighting between two of the state’s largest departments, as health and human services officials clash with their counterparts in corrections over where the blame lies and how to solve the problem.