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Q&A: Why Caitlin is the best candidate

What makes you a better candidate than Patrick Cahillane or Yvonne Gittelson?

By and large, the biggest issues facing the incarcerated population today are: substance use disorder and mental health issues.These are nursing issues, not law enforcement or education issues. These are issues of health and wellbeing. As a registered nurse practicing as a correctional nurse and certified correctional healthcare provider (CCHP), I am prepared to address these issues in a way neither of the other candidates is. Who better to helm an agency than someone who understands the largest problems in a very in depth and practical way. This is the work I continue to do on a daily basis and have for more than a decade. I have seen the shift in corrections because of the opioid epidemic. I have experienced first hand both the struggles and success of providing FDA approved medical treatments for substance use disorder in correctional facilities and already understand the intricacies. I helped to create the Hampshire Sheriff’s Office MOUD program and was involved in the program development, initial grant writing, served as the medical liaison to the program, ran the weekly meetings and designed and created the data capture program which was used for reporting to the DPH, DOC and other agencies. I have worked in other agencies managing these concerns and have seen what works and what doesn’t. I will be able to bring that working knowledge and experience to this job in order to improve the program currently in place and increase its success.

After the passage of the 2018 Criminal Justice Reform Act, a number of the individuals we are seeing in corrections are there for shorter periods of time. The average length of stay for a pre-trial individual at the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office is approximately 30 days. For many people who are heavy opiate users, which is the bulk of the population, this is not even enough time to get someone to a healthy and safe baseline with medication assisted treatment before their release back out into the community. You CANNOT successfully reach an individual in the throes of detox, withdrawal or a mental health crisis for ANY other programming opportunities until you have addressed these issues and established a baseline. Addressing substance use and mental illness are the primary priorities for success and harm reduction for more than 80% of the population. Addressing severe mental illness is a priority for more than 50% of the population (70% if you ask them). These two issues together account for a diagnosis of a co-occurring disorder in nearly 50% of the population which needs to be treated in an integrated way. Medical autonomy is paramount in making this happen. The paradigm shift needs to take place and our correctional facilities need to start addressing substance use as a chronic disease and mental health as part of our overall health. As an active and passionate member of the medical community, I understand the issues and support the autonomy required in making this successful. 

I work as a day to day, face to face correctional employee. I work with the incarcerated population every day. I work with correctional staff across departments every day. I interact with Administrators and managers daily. I see the successes and pitfalls of the day to day operations within correctional facilities. I am the only candidate doing this work. I am the only candidate getting the direct feedback about care, success and failure from the exact people this office manages. The only candidate. So much of leading is understanding people. I have worked with the staff at Hampshire County for nearly a decade. In the trenches. Through crises and through success. They know me. They trust me. They support me. The incarcerated population have been cared for by me for just as long. Corrections becomes a long term care facility for some and there are some individuals for whom I have been their primary healthcare provider as an adult. They trust me. They know me. 

As issues of substance use and mental health get the attention they deserve, the streamlining necessary for success and tools to expand their possibilities, my Administration can then begin to expand programming and service opportunities for the incarcerated population which will then lead to more avenues of success. I am technology focused in order to achieve these goals and think moving the facility out of the 1970s and into the 21st century is a priority for success in all avenues. As a generationally different candidate, technology is an integral part of my life and I am uniquely poised to bring that into the daily operations of the Hampshire Sheriff’s Office.

My leadership style is team based, straight forward, fair, inclusive and hands on. I think it is best when everyone has a seat at the table. Voices are acknowledged and amplified when appropriate. Creating policy in a bubble without consulting the people doing the work is a recipe for failure. There is a lack of communication in the present Administration that stymies productivity, best practices, innovation and advancement. That stops with me. Communication will be open and multidirectional. The Hampshire Sheriff’s Office is due for a change. We can no longer be satisfied with the status quo when the status quo is holding us back. I hope to be that change on September 6th.

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