Update: The company Hancock County had found to resume recovery coaching at the jail told the county it cannot provide the service. Read the latest story here.
Hancock County has found a new group to provide recovery coaches to jail inmates battling addiction, more than six months after Sheriff Scott Kane canceled the county’s coaching arrangement with another group over its support for Black Lives Matter.
The county’s three commissioners are expected to decide next week whether to hire Groups Recover Together, a for-profit firm with roots in New Hampshire, to provide recovery coaches at the Hancock County Jail.
The move would restore the service at the Ellsworth jail, where there has been no recovery coaching available since June 2020. That’s when Kane terminated a recovery coaching contract with Healthy Acadia after the Ellsworth-based public health organization issued a public statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Details about the proposed contract with Groups Recover Together, a chain of addiction treatment clinics with an Ellsworth location, were unavailable Wednesday. Kane and Scott Adkins, the county’s administrator, did not return messages left at their offices.
Two of Hancock County’s three elected commissioners have said they would like to see the recovery coaching program for inmates with addictions continue, but said they have no authority over how the sheriff runs the county jail. Because the program in recent years has been funded entirely by outside sources, commissioners have not had a say in which entity runs the program or how it is paid for.
Commissioner Paul Paradis, who was newly elected in November and has been a sitting commissioner for less than a month, declined to comment on the sheriff’s decision to terminate the contract the county had with Healthy Acadia. He said he is not familiar enough with the history of the program or what may have transpired between Kane and Healthy Acadia before Kane decided to cut ties with the group.
However, the recovery coaching program should be reactivated, Paradis said, but he is impartial about which organization should run it. He said he looks forward to finding out more next week about the potential contract with Groups Recover Together.
“I think it is an important program,” Paradis said. “People wind up in jail probably when they hit rock bottom, and when they hit rock bottom they need help.”
Commissioner John Wombacher said he is concerned that Kane cut ties to Healthy Acadia and until now has been unable to find another group to run the program.
“I understand, to a degree, the sheriff’s feeling” on Healthy Acadia’s statement, he said, “but I think it’s a shame [Kane and Healthy Acadia] couldn’t come to an understanding.”
Wombacher said he is concerned that Kane’s decision will have a chilling effect on other groups that partner with the county on various projects, potentially making them leery of staking out public positions that might be perceived as political.
“It also adversely affects other services,” Wombacher said.
Attempts Tuesday and Wednesday to contact Commission Chairman William Clark — who served as the county’s sheriff for 34 years before retiring in 2014, when Kane was elected — were unsuccessful as calls to his home went unanswered.
Groups Recover Together was founded in Claremont, New Hampshire, where a former Dartmouth medical school student teamed up with a local doctor in 2014 to open the first clinic, serving those without insurance, according to a 2018 story in the Bangor Daily News. The model aimed to remove two hurdles that uninsured people seeking treatment often face: cost and distance.
The company has 14 locations in Maine and clinics in nine other states, according to its website.