Hancock County officials and administrators with Healthy Acadia, a public health organization that Sheriff Scott Kane barred last summer from working at the jail after it released a statement in support of Black Lives Matter, are expected to meet Monday morning to discuss a possible resolution.
If Healthy Acadia and Kane can reach an agreement, the group should be able to restore the jail’s recovery coaching program “immediately,” William Clark, chairman of the Hancock County Commission, said Saturday.
The three-member commission met in an unusual and brief emergency Zoom meeting Saturday to discuss the lack of a recovery coaching program for opioid-dependent inmates at the jail.
Kane and the county had come under criticism earlier in the week after the Bangor Daily News reported that Kane terminated a contract with Healthy Acadia last June because of its statement in support of Black Lives Matter.
Kane has described Black Lives Matter as an anti-law enforcement “terrorist group” that has advocated for violence against police officers.
Kane did not respond to a message sent Saturday evening after the commissioners meeting.
Elsie Flemings, the executive director of Healthy Acadia, confirmed that she is meeting Monday morning with Kane and other county officials.
“We very much hope that this is an opportunity to come to a resolution in a mutually respectful way, for the benefit of so many people who are struggling with substance use disorder in the jail, and for our community as a whole,” Flemings said.
County commissioners do not have any control over how the county jail is run, which is entirely up to Sheriff Kane, in accordance with state law. County commissioners do have oversight of the jail budget, as they do with all aspects of the county’s finances.
On Saturday, commissioners had planned to meet in executive session to discuss the county’s legal obligations with its attorney over the recovery coaching program, but after hearing earlier Saturday about Monday’s planned meeting, they decided not to go into executive session.
“It’s good news,” Commissioner John Wombacher said. “I look forward to hearing what progress happens on Monday.”
Kane had been expected to ask county commissioners to approve an agreement with a different opioid recovery coaching provider at the commissioners’ regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2. But an official with the potential provider, Groups Recover Together, said Thursday that it had decided it cannot provide recovery coaching services because of “competing strategic priorities.”
On Friday, the county released an amended agenda for the commissioners’ Feb. 2 meeting that no longer includes a discussion item about the jail’s recovery coaching program.
Clark said that Kane plans to make a public statement at the start of the Feb. 2 meeting about the status of the jail’s opioid recovery coaching program.