Cumberland County has been selected along with 14 other jurisdictions to participate in a national program to help expand medication-assisted treatment for opioid abuse in jails.

The program, which provides training and guidance to local officials, is a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Justice and Arnold Ventures, a Texas-based nonprofit that focuses on criminal justice reform.

Travis Kennedy, director of public affairs for Cumberland County, said the award did not come with a specific amount of money but will pay for up to five staff members to attend training in Washington, D.C.

“It does open the possibility for future funding, but primarily this is going to help us develop the best possible program for treating people in our jail,” he said.

A major part of the program will be developing a plan to ensure people can still access medication-assisted treatment after they are released.

“Ultimately, the support network waiting for these patients outside the jail is what will maintain their recovery,” Cumberland County Manager Jim Gailey said in a statement. “It’s critical that inmates in treatment have a seamless transition to continued medical treatment and counseling, employment, safe housing and peer support when they’re released if we want to see long-term success.”

Cumberland County partnered with eight different entities in preparing its application for the competitive program. The sheriff’s office, which oversees the jail, will work alongside Armor Correctional Health Services, Maine Pretrial Services, the Maine Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, Department of Corrections, Northern Light Health, The Co-Occurring Collaborative Serving ME, and the Portland Police Department.

Cumberland County is one of 15 jurisdictions that will participate in the Planning Initiative to Build Bridges Between Jail and Community-Based Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder. The selected sites span the country from Lewis and Clark County Detention Center in Helena, Montana, which has 80 beds, to Cook County Jail in Chicago, the largest single-site jail in the United States.

The other selected sites are: Camden County, New Jersey; Chesterfield County, Virginia; Clackamas County, Oregon.; Cook County, Illinois; Durham County, North Carolina; Eaton County, Michigan; Hudson County, New Jersey; Ingham County, Michigan; Jefferson County, Kentucky; Lewis and Clark County, Montana; Marion County, Indiana; Orleans, St. Bernard, Plaquemines Parishes, Louisiana; Shelby County, Tennessee; St. Louis County, Minnesota.

Cumberland County Jail’s capacity is 600 inmates, but houses an average of 400 on any given day. The population is a mix of people who have been sentenced to less than 1 year and those who are awaiting trial or disposition of their cases.

Kennedy said he didn’t have a good estimate for how many inmates are struggling with substance use disorder but said there is no question the percentage has increased steadily as Maine has been gripped by the opioid crisis. Last year, 354 people died from drug overdoses in Maine, down from a record-high of 417 the year before.

Gov. Janet Mills has indicated her support for expanding access to medication-assisted treatment and has taken steps to expand programs at state-run correctional facilities.

County jails, though, are not state-run and support for medication-assisted treatment varies.

In March, an Aroostook County woman successfully sued the local jail to provide her with suboxone during her 40-day jail sentence.

 

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