AUGUSTA – On Tuesday, Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, introduced legislation that would facilitate the establishment of a treatment and recovery court in Aroostook County. LD 1596, An Act to Facilitate the Creation of an Aroostook County Drug Treatment Court was the subject of a public hearing before the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee.
“At this point, there is almost no corner of the state that has not been impacted by the opioid crisis. It has devastated families and communities in both rural and nonrural parts of the state, and landed many folks in our criminal justice system. Maine Treatment and Recovery Courts are designed as options for individuals whose interaction with the criminal justice system is largely due to substance use disorder” said President Jackson. “If we are serious about combating the opioid epidemic and helping Mainers get their lives back on track, we need to use every tool available. Establishing a treatment and recovery court in Aroostook County is essential to this work.”
LD 1596 would lay the foundation for the establishment of a treatment and recovery court in Aroostook County. The legislation creates an Assistant District Attorney position that would serve on a treatment and recovery team for individuals with substance use disorder who become involved in the criminal justice system and choose to participate in the program.
“As of this morning, over 145 individuals are in Aroostook County custody. More than 90 percent of those individuals are on pretrial charges and many of them on drug related issues. Data shows that many are in dire need of treatment for substance use disorder,” said Erik Lamoreau, Project Coordinator at Aroostook Mental Health Services, Inc. “[A] Treatment Court will take the pressure off of our jail correction staff, our overfull legal caseloads, help support our workforce challenges, our counties budget, and most importantly provide a treatment option for our people with Substance use disorder. It is time to act on a solution-driven, proven evidence-based model of treatment for our addicted citizens.”
The Maine Treatment and Recovery Courts are specialty dockets for eligible individuals whose involvement with the criminal justice system has been fueled by a serious substance use disorder (drugs and/or alcohol). These courts are located in Androscoggin, Cumberland, Hancock, Penobscot, Washington and York Counties. The closest treatment and recovery court to Aroostook County is located in Calais – more than 130 miles away from the County’s population center.
“Treatment and Recovery Courts use evidence-based practices to treat addiction. Unlike standard outpatient treatments utilizing evidence-based treatments, Treatment and Recovery Courts also provide social learning, re-enforcement of treatment concepts and learning, and accountability to engaging in treatment,” said Jamie Corbett, a Master Clinical Social Worker – Clinical Conditional, a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor, a Certified Clinical Supervisor, and a mother in long term recovery in written testimony. “I have had the privilege of watching Treatment and Recovery Courts change lives and support individuals in obtaining and maintaining long-term recovery.”
Individuals are voluntarily admitted into a treatment and recovery court program upon entering a plea agreement and acknowledging their role in the offending conduct. Major requirements of this program are weekly meetings, drug testing, curfews, and education. The treatment and recovery team that manages the day-to-day operations of the court is multi-disciplinary and requires a prosecutor.
A 2020 independent evaluation of Maine Adult Treatment Courts, found that these programs are cost-effective and reduced recidivism rates for those that have successfully completed the program.
The proposal is supported by the Aroostook County District Attorney, Alliance for Addiction and Mental Health Services and the Maine County Commissioners Association. LD 1596 faces additional work sessions in committee.