OSSIPEE — Carroll County Commissioners chairman Amanda Bevard (R-Wolfeboro) says the commissioners will be "too busy" over the next few months to hear from the American Civil Liberties Union of N.H. about medication-assisted treatment (MAT) at the county jail.
It was a stance that seemed to irk fellow commissioner David Babson (R-Ossipee).
Bevard, along with Commissioner Terry McCarthy (R-Conway) on Oct. 2 outvoted Babson to deny a policy recommended by Jail Superintendent’s Jason Henry to provide MAT for drug-addicted inmates who aren’t already on such a program.
Henry maintains that not only is it the right thing to do, it's also legally required, according to his reading of federal court decisions.
Henry claims he will implement the policy no matter what the commissioners decide. He said the jail’s contracted doctors have an obligation to provide the level of care that’s available in the community.
Explaining her vote, Bevard said she fears with MAT, the county could accidentally hook inmates on drugs such as suboxone.
Henry responded that the county will still be on the hook to pay for the treatment the inmates receive.
The American Civil Liberties Union was supposed to attend Wednesday's commissioners meeting to discuss the issue, but according to County Administrator Ken Robichaud, ACLU representatives were called into federal court and wanted to reschedule for Nov. 13.
"They are not here today; that's when they were supposed to come," said Bevard. "Our schedule is really busy from now on. We have budgets to do."
The deadline for the county budget, which is crafted by commissioners and a group of 15 state representatives, is next April. The present budget is about $33 million.
During the media questions portion of Wednesday's meeting, the Sun asked if the commissioners are interested in hearing from the ACLU.
Bevard replied, "I'm not."
"Is it your decision to say the ACLU come in here or is it the board's decision? Sounds to me like you made the decision and I oppose that," he said.
Bevard stood her ground and said the ACLU couldn't get an appointment in the "near future" because of budget season. She also reiterated that she wasn't interested in what the ACLU has to say.
Babson made a motion to invite the ACLU to any regular Wednesday morning meeting, but that motion failed for lack of a second from either McCarthy or Bevard.
"I don't have a problem if they contact us, but there is no reason for us to reach out to them," said McCarthy.
Robichaud told commissioners that, in fact, the ACLU had reached out to him and tried to reschedule for Nov. 13 and that budget talks weren't scheduled for that day as it would be a regular commissioners meeting.
"We have let everyone else who wanted to come to these meetings come," said Robichaud.
Bevard again reiterated that the ACLU missed their opportunity.
"I had 12 people I had to call and tell them not to come because they are no longer on the agenda," said Bevard, adding McCarthy also had people she had to notify.
Babson asked, "Could you tell us who the 12 people are that you called and told them not to come in?"
Bevard refused, saying she didn't want those people to be "harassed."
When asked by Babson who would harass those people, Bevard said she had "no idea."
Robichaud said the ACLU could still attend and speak during the public input portions of a meeting, which are held near the beginning and end.
Henry told the Sun by email Wednesday that Public Health Facilitator Catalina Concha Kirsch and New Futures Community Engagement Coordinator Katie Foster, who had spoken to the benefits of MAT at the Oct. 2 meeting benefits of MAT had contacted the ACLU after commissioners refused to pass the jail's proposed policy.
On Wednesday, state Rep. William Marsh (R-Brookfield), who is a retired eye doctor and is a member of Huggins Hospital Board of Trustees, addressed the commissioners on the subject of MAT at the jail. He said he was speaking as a private citizen.
"My biggest concern has to deal with the credentials of the person who is being hired to (administer the drugs)," said Marsh.
He said that a physician who is merely continuing a treatment that was already prescribed wouldn't need a lot of credentialing. However, a practitioner starting someone on a new treatment plan should be board-certified by the American Board of Prevention Medicine.
Marsh said that certification would reassure him that the person is capable of being responsible. He said the opioid crisis was fueled in part by doctors prescribing opioids too often.
"I (would have) real issues with an uncertified doctor starting a new treatment program that nobody around here is particularly familiar with," said Marsh. "I think it's very clear we need a policy for substance-use treatment in the jail, but it doesn't mean this policy that you were given is the correct policy."