ELLSWORTH, Maine — For nearly four years, the Ellsworth nonprofit Healthy Acadia assisted inmates in the Hancock County Jail through its peer recovery coaching services.
The services provide support to individuals at any stage in their recovery and at any place in their lives. The recovery coaching allows inmates to develop a plan to work on their recovery as they wait for their release from incarceration.
The coaching services were terminated by Hancock County Sheriff Scott Kane in June after Healthy Acadia released a statement in support of Black Lives Matter in the wake of the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd.
"It's well-documented and understood in the field of public health that racism is a public health issue. The American Public Health Association has identified racism as a key force of the social determinants of health. As a public health organization, the issue of racial equity is well within our mission and can and should be considered and prioritized across our program areas," Healthy Acadia's Elsie Flemmings said in a statement.
Flemings said Healthy Acadia did revise the statement and worked with Kane to continue its support services.
"We had hoped, and still hope, to find a way forward in order to continue to serve our community members who are suffering from substance use disorders in jail," Flemmings added.
During an emergency meeting Saturday, the Hancock County Commissioners announced that Kane, Flemmings, and Chairman William Clark would meet Monday to discuss the possibilities of restarting the recovery services at the jail.
On Tuesday, Clark announced that officials from the Hancock County Jail and Healthy Acadia are drafting a memorandum of understanding that would bring recovery coaching back to the jail.
The jail has set aside time for the first recovery session this Friday and Healthy Acadia will be operating its services at full capacity by next week, according to Clark.
On Tuesday, Kane gave his first public comment since the news of terminating Healthy Acadia's services became public.
"I could have handled the situation regarding recovery coaches from Healthy Acadia different. It was an emotional reaction to words said and positions taken by some in (the) Black Lives Matter movement, specifically against law enforcement," Kane said.
More than 90 members of the Hancock County community were logged into the Zoom meeting.
"The Hancock County Sheriff's Office will continue working for all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. As we move forward I would ask that everyone has patience and understanding with each other as we navigate the complex and multi-faceted issues in our time," Kane added.
Community members were allowed to give public comments after the sheriff's remarks. Kane left the meeting during public comment.