2017-06-23 / Front Page

County drug rehab proposal passes budget scrutiny

50 in York County died of drug overdoses in 2016
Senior Staff Writer

ALFRED — Creation of a residential drug rehabilitation center aimed at treating pre-trial arrestees is all but certain, following passage of the county budget by the York County Budget Committee on Wednesday night. 

The $19.7 million budget includes the county’s operating funds for all departments for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

As well as providing funding for the Layman Way Recovery Center, the budget includes money to hire part-time personnel in the office of the York County District Attorney and the county’s maintenance department, new cruisers to replace a number of high-mileage vehicles at the sheriff’s office, and operating expenses for county departments.

County Commissioner Marston Lovell spoke in favor of investing in the drug recovery center during the public hearing portion of Wednesday’s budget committee session.

Lovell pointed out that 50 York County residents died of drug overdoses in 2016, up from 36 the previous year, and based on current trends the county is projected to have as many as five dozen overdose deaths this year.

He called the drug situation in York County a crisis.

“Some would say (drug addiction) is a self-inflicted injury, but it is a treatable problem,” Lovell said.

He said at some point, once the crisis stage has passed, the recovery center could be turned over to a third party “to get government out” of the program.

The spending plan now moves back to county commissioners. If they make changes, the budget would be sent back to the budget committee, which has the final vote on the document. If commissioners seek no changes, the budget is set.

The vote to accept the budget came after a 12-minute public hearing, which saw sparse attendance and even less comment. Amont those attending were representatives from York County Shelter Programs, Inc., the entity partnering with the county to provide the residential rehabilitation program.

As currently envisioned, the program would commence in the spring, using $250,000 from the county budget and $200,000 from a county reserve fund. County Manager Greg Zinser said the county expects to add additional funds into the following year’s budget for the program.

Taken together, the detoxification and the residential rehabilitation program will cost about $1.5 million. But Zinser said the county is now looking at funding just the residential piece estimated at $750,000.  He said the county remains in talks with an unnamed hospital to provide the detoxification portion of the program.

The county, in conjunction with York County Shelter Programs Inc., is looking to convert a county-owned building most recently used as a state pre-release center on the grounds of York County Jail into a 12-bed detox facility and 24-bed residential recovery center for male and female drug addicts. The detox facility is designed for short-term stays; the  residential beds are designed for three to six month long stays.

The program is designed to treat addicts who have been arrested and would otherwise be headed for jail to await trial. Referrals could be made by a bail commissioner  or a judge as a condition of bail. Individuals would be screened. The program would not serve violent or sexual offenders, those with a history of arson or those charged with trafficking scheduled drugs, according to the proposal.

A January public hearing saw overwhelming support from representatives of the municipalities attending. 

A bill sponsored by State Sen.Justin Chenette that county officials had hoped would help fund the program took a different turn during the legislative process and now would provide $975,000 as a one-time pilot project to treat those with substance abuse issues who are already incarcerated at York County Jail.

The bill, L.D. 377, produced a divided report in the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

At last word, L.D. 377 has been placed on the Legislature’s special appropriations table. So it is uncertain if the bill would be funded.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or twells@journaltribune.com.

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