With the departure of Waldo County as a boarding county for Two Bridges Regional Jail at the end of the month, TBRJ can turn its sights toward a full-scale, wrap-around addiction treatment center for inmates.
Enzo Recovery, which has a contract with the state, will work with TBRJ to set up a Medication Assisted Treatment center. The program will start as a pilot project serving 16 inmates in a minimum security section of the jail, but jail administrator Col. James Bailey said he is reaching out to the state and to other counties to have drug-addicted inmates come for treatment.
That would allow the jail to open up a full housing unit, or pod, for the MAT, possibly by 2020. “We’re in early talks with the state and counties,” he said.
“Using Enzo Recovery means that the state is picking up the costs of the program, but not our staff costs.” The plan is to have counties without MAT programs onsite send their addicted inmates to TBRJ for treatment, for the cost for the MAT to serve the inmate, and staff costs. “It is not my goal to make money on this,” Bailey said. “But we do have to cover our costs.”
Temporarily, the wood shop will close, and Lt. Naomi Bonang, who runs the shop, will run the commissary for the new unit and the whole jail, as she is already doing. If things work out as Bailey hopes, the wood shop and other programming would return to help the inmates make the transition to life after jail.
A good part of the program would focus on helping the inmate get ready for life after treatment. Having a stable job and housing is key, as is continued support for treatment. “Addiction Resource Services will cover most of the support for our two counties,” Bailey said. He said ARC has a MAT program. “Enzo is looking at properties for housing in Lincoln County and Bath. They also have properties in Augusta and Southern Maine.” Many of the inmates will return to other counties, so having statewide support is important.
Some employers have reached out to the jail to find qualified applicants for work release, including Hodgdon Yachts, which interviewed a candidate at the jail, Bailey said. Other interest has been raised by seasonal restaurants looking for culinary workers. Designing a program for culinary work is one of the plans Bailey has to help meet towns' needs and find stable work for departing inmates. He said all inmates are screened for issues that might make it hard for them to get a job in that field, such as testing positive for diseases such as Hepatitis B. “We screen the whole population,” he said.
“Having a stable job and a stable place to live lowers recidivism rates,” he said. “In the long run, it saves money for everyone.”
After helping the inmate with work and housing, there will be a “warm handoff” to the agency working with the person as he or she continues recovery in the community. “Studies have shown that if the treatment center picks up the person and takes him to his first appointment, he’ll go to a second appointment and a third,” Bailey said. “We want the inmate to be successful, and not to turn to crime to support himself.” He said most people who come into the system with addiction disorders are arrested because they got into a fight while high, or committed a burglary to buy drugs or pay the rent because they couldn’t hold down a job. Identification as inmates suffering from addiction disorder is not always immediate.
This program focuses on opioids, because they are a major concern in Maine. “Those are the drugs that are killing people,” Bailey said. “Eventually, I’d like to expand the program to other drugs that are problematic as well.” According to the Maine Attorney General's Office, 95 Mainers died from cocaine overdoses in 2018, a 58 percent increase from 2016; 21 died from methamphetamine overdoses; and people are now mixing cocaine with opioids in a deadly cocktail.
During the transition Bailey said will last the rest of this year, no staff losses are expected. Staff members will take coursework on working with addicted populations, and some will eventually become recovery coaches. “I’d like them all to become recovery coaches,” he said.
If other counties start sending inmates, there would be no need for any staff reductions, and some hires may be needed, Bailey said. If the full pod opens in January, the wood shop will reopen then, once again under Bonang's direction.
Over the next month, Enzo will begin picking inmates who wish to be part of the program, while Bailey chooses its staff. “Part of my criteria is going to be an essay, which staff members will write, about what they believe MAT is and why they see it as important,” he said. Inmates who become part of the program will sign a contract demonstrating a willingness to change their lives, Bailey said.