An artist’s rendering shows the substance use recovery center being proposed near the York County Jail in Alfred.
By Tammy Wells, York County media specialist
ALFRED – The Alfred Planning Board voted unanimously on Monday, Oct. 23, to declare York County government’s application for a substance use recovery center complete and set a public hearing for Nov. 27. The decision of the six members present is a first step in the permitting process.
Some planning board members expressed concern that the number of beds outlined in the in the project – 58 – exceeds the town’s ordinance limits, a point they made at a meeting in September when the board voted first to deny the application, rescinded that vote, and then tabled the matter.
The new center is intended to replace the county’s 36-bed Layman Way Recovery Center, which opened in 2018 near the York County Jail. The Layman Way facility is a six-month residential jail diversion program for screened, nonviolent people charged with crimes. In 2019, Alfred adopted a Substance Abuse Inpatient Care Center ordinance limiting residential beds to 30.
Planning Board member Michael Gibney said he understands that the 36 beds at Layman Way are grandfathered and said it would be practical to combine Layman Way and the new facility “but show me in the ordinance where you can do that.” It is York County’s position that the project conforms with Alfred’s ordinances.
In a September interview, the county’s clinical consultant Jennifer Ouellette, citing information from the Maine Drug Data hub, said about 8.8 percent of York County’s residents older than 12 have some form of substance use disorder. She said federal statistics show 90 percent of people who need drug treatment don’t receive it for several reasons, including denial that they have a problem and lack of funds. “Much of that is due to inability to access treatment,” she said.
The recovery center project is among several initiatives undertaken by York County since it received $40 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds in 2021.
Commissioners earmarked about $15 million each to the first responder training center and to the substance use recovery center, along with $500,000 to the Sanford Housing Authority for supportive housing in that community, and funds to an array of other projects, including a teen center in Biddeford, a social service hub in Kittery, a regional dredge, equipment for county use, and upgrades to county buildings.