ALFRED — York County has opened a new residential addiction recovery program for eligible men and women at the county jail.

The program, which was believed to be the first undertaken by a county government in Maine, will focus on providing a safe place to detox from heroin and opioids, plus a long-term residential recovery program. Plans for the program come amid a dramatic rise in the number of overdose deaths in Maine and as addicts struggle to find treatment.

The Layman Way Recovery Center opened with five people in residence. Each had been arrested and taken to York County Jail, and their defense counsel and the district attorney requested eligibility screening to a judge. Requirements for eligibility include, among other factors, residence in York County and their charge just be of a nonviolent nature.

Once found eligible for treatment, they were released to the recovery center, adjacent to the jail, as a condition of bail. They’ll live at the center for three to six months and undergo a regimen of individual and group counseling.

Four of the residents sat for an interview on Friday, an hour before the grand opening of the 24-bed treatment center, a collaboration of York County government and York County Shelter Programs. Each one expressed their gratitude for the ability for a fresh, new start – for the chance to put their opioid addictions behind them.

Zach Tuttle of Lebanon, Josh Croteau and Donald Goudreau of Biddeford and Paul Kimball of Limerick each said they’ve been in jail and prison. Convictions have been for burglary and heroin possession, probation violations and more.

“I’ve had a 20 year battle with opioids,” said Goudreau. “I’m grateful and thankful this opened up. It is giving me a chance.”

Goudreau and the three other men are all uninsured.

“This is an amazing opportunity for me for a second chance at life, and to have my family back in my life,” said Tuttle, 27, who said he’s had a 13-year opioid addiction.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Croteau, 27, who began using oxycodone at age 15. He said he wanted those he’s hurt over the years to know he is sorry, and is working to better himself.

“I didn’t know change was possible,” said Kimball. “I’m grateful to my family for being supportive at this time while I change my life. I’ve never wanted a change so bad.”

The quest for a residential drug treatment program in York County to reduce the incidents of opiate and other addictions began close to three years ago. Those involved in county government hoped to reduce overdose deaths and help keep people from relapsing into addiction and returning to the York County Jail.

“Addiction and criminal behavior are linked and for years, we’ve known that, but failed to come up with a solution,” said York County District Attorney Kathryn Slattery. “As district attorney, public safety is my number one concern. I want to make sure the public is protected. The next step is breaking the cycle of arrest, incarceration, bail and re-arrest.”

If those addicted are not treated, she said, they remain a risk to society, because of their involvement with the criminal justice system.

County Manager Greg Zinser and Slattery met to discuss how the opioid crisis in York County was affecting the district attorney’s operations. York County commissioners were supportive of a program to help convicts who were addicted to drugs, as was the county budget committee. At a public hearing two years ago, many York County municipalities also expressed their support.

County government began a collaboration with York County Shelter Programs, which is under contract to provide the recovery services.

When a request for state finding was not forthcoming, county government used a combination of reserve funds and cash they’d budgeted — a total of $450,000 — to start the program.

The building being used as the recovery center began as an overflow facility at the old county jail on Route 4, until that facility closed. The building was moved to the grounds of the new jail and later became a center for women in state custody nearing the end of their sentences until that program was moved to the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.

Layman Way Recovery Center provides 12 beds for women and 12 for men. Besides intensive counseling, an onsite case manager will help residents develop plans for when they leave, finding a place to live, a job and more.

York County Shelter Programs Clinical Director Jen Ouellette said after care, perhaps in the form of outpatient counseling, may be offered, and the recovery center may be a host site for a number of 12-step programs.

There are five people in residence now, and five additional people are in the process of being screened for eligibility, Ouellette. She said she expects the facility may be full by the end of the month.

“This is an opportunity for people facing this crisis in their lives to take on a new role,” said YCSP Director Bob Dawber.

Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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