The company Hancock County identified Wednesday as the next prospective provider of recovery coaches for jail inmates battling addiction is unable to provide the service, an official with the company said.
Despite having had “a series of talks” with county officials, Groups Recover Together has decided it can’t move forward with reviving the jail’s recovery coaching program, said Cooper Zelnick, the company’s chief strategy officer.
The recovery coaching program has been idle since June after Sheriff Scott Kane terminated a contract with the prior provider, Healthy Acadia, because it issued a public statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Kane has described Black Lives Matter as an anti-law enforcement “terrorist group” that has advocated for violence against police officers.
Groups Recover Together, which began in New Hampshire and runs a chain of addiction treatment clinics in 10 states, told county officials Wednesday afternoon that it would be unable to revive and run the recovery coaching program at the jail, Zelnick said.
Recovery coaches are peer mentors who start working with inmates while they’re incarcerated and help them navigate their recovery once they’re released.
On Wednesday morning, county officials released the agenda for the commissioners’ upcoming Tuesday meeting, including an agenda item that called for commissioners to consider “approval and signature of the Groups Recover Together contract providing recovery coaching for the inmate population.”
But Zelnick said Thursday that Groups Recover Together cannot provide recovery coaching services to the jail’s inmates because of “competing strategic priorities.” He declined to elaborate.
Kane has not responded to messages left at his office Wednesday and Thursday.
The sheriff said last week that he feels an obligation to help inmates overcome addiction. Since he terminated Healthy Acadia’s contract last summer, he said, jail administrative staff have been looking for another provider of opioid recovery coaching services.
Despite the company’s decision, as of Thursday morning the discussion item for the recovery coaching contract was still on the commissioners’ upcoming February 2 meeting agenda, said Scott Adkins, the county administrator.
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.