York County government officials including, from left, Human Resources Director Linda Corliss, Sheriff William King, Manager Greg Zinser, County Commission Chair Allen Sicard and Fire Administrator Roger Hooper laid out plans for a new 58-bed recovery center as well as a first responder training center on the grounds of York County Jail in a recent interview. Tammy Wells Photo

ALFRED — What if there was a place where people looking to recover from substance misuse could get a full range of treatment, including detoxification, residential treatment, intensive outpatient programs and aftercare, close to home?

What if people looking for career training or ongoing training sessions as a first responder — whether in corrections or as a police officer or deputy, firefighter, emergency medical professional or dispatcher — could attend classes to do so right in the center of York County?

While there is a lot to do, the prospect of both happening is drawing closer.

York County Commissioners, department heads and others have contemplated those questions, formulated plans and are looking to break ground perhaps as soon as the spring of 2023, on projects to fill both needs.

The county is planning to establish a 58-bed facility for a regional recovery center on land it owns adjacent to York County Jail on Route 4 in Alfred.

This is a concept site plan of where a new first responder training center and a new 58-bed recovery treatment center could be located on the grounds of York County Jail. York County Commissioners are in the process of nailing down precise costs for each of the two entities and hiring a construction management firm with a view to break ground sometime next spring. The projects would be largely built using county funding received through the federal American Rescue Plan Act. Courtesy Image

County officials are also planning to build a readiness training center on the property, to help departments across the county fill critical vacancies and retain existing employees by providing both initial training and ongoing programs to keep those already serving up-to-date, closer to home.


As well, the county government is eyeing possibilities that might be forthcoming in a partnership with Sanford Housing Authority to provide transitional supportive housing.

The recovery center and first responder training building projects would be funded mostly by using much of the county’s $40 million allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds. As well, there is about $850,000 earmarked in the federal budget for helping to equip the training center, along with other pending funding contributions, county officials said. In addition, there is now a nonprofit York County First Responder Foundation Inc., which has the ability to raise funds.

Some of the county’s $40 million allocation has already been committed — York County Commissioners have approved $1.5 million to assist in conversion of a former church to My Place Teen Center in Biddeford, and $750,000 to Fair Tide Wellness Service Hub — a Kittery-based organization which helps the homeless — plus expenditures to improve air quality at county buildings, and more.

Commissioners on Oct. 19 voted 3-2 to expend $1.54 million in ARPA funds to purchase a regional dredge to serve coastal communities.

County Manager Greg Zinser said he expects there would be roughly about $33 million available from the county’s ARPA funds for the recovery and training projects.

Commissioners on Oct. 19 chose Landry French Construction of Scarborough to provide construction management services for the training center and separate recovery center.


It is a way, county government officials said, to serve all of York County.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” noted Zinser, who said commissioners told him “Let’s do something that is going to count and have a positive impact on York County.”

The Regional Recovery Center

“We know substance misuse is a problem because we operate a jail,” said Zinser. He pointed out that Sheriff William King and jail leaders have expanded the facility’s Medication Assisted Treatment program to serve 80 residents.

Just across the parking lot from the jail is Layman Way, a 24-bed recovery center the county operates in collaboration with York County Shelter Programs. Layman Way is aimed at people who have been arrested but have no history of violent crime. Those individuals, after screening and consultation with the York County District Attorney, may undergo treatment rather than spend the time in jail, awaiting trial.

The new 58-bed center, which would replace Layman Way, would provide a free standing, eight-bed detox unit, 42 residential rehabilitation beds and eight observation beds. The center would provide medication-assisted suboxone treatment, an intensive outpatient program, after care and case management.


“The conversation with the sheriff over the years has been ‘the jail will always be here’ — some people need to be housed because of violent behavior, but some people are better served outside the facility,” said Zinser.

King said a deputy or police officer who encounters someone who has expressed interest in treatment for substance misuse currently have no place to take them.

“There is no option for someone who is not detoxed,” King said.

“Think of the families getting ripped apart, because of substance misuse,” said Commission Chair Allen Sicard. “We can’t afford not to do a program like this.”

Whereas Layman Way is accessible only to those who would otherwise be in jail, the new, larger county-based program would be barrier free, said Zinser. It would be open to residents in general, not only those who encounter the justice system.

MaineCare reimbursement figures largely in the program’s operational model — about 75 percent, Zinser estimated. Much of a remaining gap of roughly $1 million to $1.5 million would be filled with what the county currently spends at Layman Way and with the help of a $95,000 opioid settlement paid annually for the next 18 years.


Those working at the recovery center would be county employees.

Each facet of the recovery facility will be licensed by the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, county officials said.

Zinser estimated the cost of the proposed recovery program to be about $130 per person per day. While the cost of housing someone at York County Jail varies depending on the jail population, he estimated it costs York County about $150 to $165 daily to house an inmate.

There is also the possibility of transitional housing, Zinser said.

Sanford Housing Authority Director Diane Gerry said the two entities are talking.

“(We’re) looking to partner with York County government to provide much needed supportive housing to people leaving treatment, jail and shelter,” said Gerry.


The training center

Ask any law enforcement agency if they have vacancies and most will say yes. It is the same for fire and emergency medical service departments and in emergency dispatch centers. In addition, there is an ongoing need for training for programs like special services, hazmat teams and the like.

That is not to say there is no training available in York County for some programs — there is. Often, however, training is scattered around the county or there is an overlap.

York County Chief Fire Administrator Roger Hooper pointed out three municipal fire departments within the county each hired several new firefighter recruits last year — and each operated their own “rookie school.”

Sometimes, Hooper said, training programs are held in any number of locations, including in cities two counties or more away.

The county already operates firefighting programs — a 60-hour class has just graduated, said Hooper. Training is currently held at departments around the county, where space is available, he said.


Those looking to make firefighting/EMS, law enforcement or corrections a career often must go elsewhere for an extended period, for training.

“There is a desire and need for consistent, reliable and scheduled training,” said Zinser.

The county government is working with York County Community College on credit courses, he said.

King said a five-week corrections training program that used to be held 100 miles away at the Maine Criminal Justice Academy in Vassalboro has more recently been offered closer to York County, at the Maine Correctional Center in Windham, “thankfully,” he said.

Still, said York County Human Resources Director Linda Corliss, some would-be corrections officers find it difficult to juggle family responsibilities and undergo training away from the local area. She said those contemplating corrections, either full time or as a reserve officer augmenting full time staff, express interest — until they learn the training schedule and location.

King said a couple of years ago, several women with young children expressed interest in corrections careers — until they learned they would have to go to Vassalboro, the location of the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, the training location at the time.


MCJA is the location where those looking to be police officers in Maine undergo 18 weeks of training. Currently, police officers from York County certified to train others, do so at the Vassalboro facility. The county is looking to bring a law enforcement training program to the York County center, ad well as fire/EMS, dispatching and corrections offerings.

The training programs have the potential to be offered 24/7, with the ability for online learning for some courses, Hooper said. The training and readiness academy would offer simulator labs, to aid in instruction.

That is a feature that appeals to Wells Police Chief Jo-Ann Putnam, who chairs District 1 of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association.

“A lot of the small departments don’t have a place to do that hands-on piece,” said Putnam, and noted there are times when departments cannot afford to send employees people away for training. “Let’s get it up and running and show that it works; let’s train the people we already have.”

“As a chief, you want local training if you can get it,” said Putnam. “It would be a campus just for public safety (training) and that is needed.”

A center could be a recruitment tool to attract employees who would see the ongoing training commitment, she said.


Zinser said the two projects have grassroots support locally. “We also know both gubernatorial candidates see the value,” he said.

Corliss, the human resources director, said the two projects together are expected to create about 100 jobs, most full time.

County officials recently laid out the plans to its host community, the town of Alfred.

They estimate that if ground is broken this spring, both programs could be in operation in 15 to 18 months.

Sicard pointed out that county commissioners have said, since they learned the county was to receive $40 million in APRA funds, that they wanted to use the money in a way that has a lasting benefit across the county.

“(This) will last for generations and serve all York County,” Sicard said.

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