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Apr 24, 2017

Governor Baker praises Webster center that helps bring drug users back into society

Governor Charlie Baker tours the Worcester County Sheriff’s Regional Resource Center with Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis and Program Manager Byron Titus

By Brian Lee, Telegram and Gazette, April 6, 2017

WEBSTER — After Gov. Charlie Baker toured a sheriff’s resource center that supports people who are on probation and trying to stay off drugs, he said it had given him a lot to think about with respect to trying to replicate some of its offerings.

Mr. Baker, who signed landmark legislation to stem opioid addiction last year, was invited Thursday to the Webster Regional Resource Center by Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis.

The center, which reopened in January 2015 after having been closed for about two years, has become a hub for clients from Dudley, East Brookfield and Uxbridge courts. The program has served 202 clients from the Dudley court, 58 from East Brookfield and 30 from Uxbridge. Ten people have attained high school equivalency diplomas after participating in a HiSET education program led by Stacie Norton Bennett at the center.

The three courts that primarily use the program cover 32 towns.

The center serves people who are in the criminal justice system and opted for drug court instead of jail. The partnership between the courts and Harrington Hospital offers case management, educational classrooms, and a community room that’s generally open until 7 p.m., Mr. Evangelidis said. The center tests for drugs and immediately reports an offender back to court.

The sheriff said the program features accountability without judgment.

It also offers van service for people who need help getting to doctor’s appointments, job interviews, substance abuse classes and other services essential to a turnaround.

“No one else has ever done this,” Mr. Evangelidis said of the transportation component.

“We’re all in this together. We need to help each other, and this center, I believe, makes a difference in the entire region, helping people who have had some problems in life,” he said.

After the tour and a private roundtable discussion with four recent graduates, the governor said:

“The interesting thing about this, and part of the reason why it’s working is, you have all of the various folks who touch these people who are trying to make changes going in the same direction and supporting them and staying with it.”

Mr. Baker said all the steps in the process of sobriety, finding and keeping a job, and housing were represented.

“It’s pretty clear from talking to all the folks that are involved that they’re having some real success,” he said.

Mr. Baker said he appreciated the chance to talk to four women who graduated last week.

Chelsea Cole, 27, and Kelsey Violette, 22, both of Northbridge, sat down with Mr. Baker for the roundtable, which was off limits to the press.

Ms. Cole said the center helped her gain a sense of empowerment. She said opioids once ran her life.

“I actually have dreams, aspirations and goals,” she said of enrolling at Quinsigamond Community College to pursue an associate’s degree in human services.

“This program has helped me so much with going back to school and identifying what I want to do with my life,” she said.

Ms. Violette, who works in finance and insurance for a car dealership, credited the program for helping her regain her life.

“I was alive, but I wasn’t living,” she said. “I gained my family back, I gained respect, I gained trust. I’m a positive part of the community. I’m just a normal person now. Being a part of criminal activity for so long and living a life … I don’t know how to explain it. You’re in such a negative place.”

Elizabeth Hopkins, 36, of Spencer, an attendee of the East Brookfield drug court, said she was originally due to graduate in August, but is doing so well that graduation has been moved up to May.

Ms. Hopkins said she has plans to enroll in an online program at the University of Massachusetts at Boston for alcohol and drug counseling.

Ms. Hopkins says she is an alcoholic and heroin addict. She said she began using Percocet nine years ago to treat pain from a Cesarean section. It escalated to using cocaine, crack cocaine and ultimately injecting heroin.

She contracted a flesh-eating bacteria infection, which almost caused her to almost lose her arm, but even that didn’t get her to stop, she said.

Ms. Hopkins called her relationships with the drug court and sheriff’s office center “very calming.”

Ms. Hopkins said she does not have a relationship with her blood family.

“This has been an extended family,” she said, singling out her counselors, Center Director Byron Titus and East Brookfield Judge Maura McCarthy.

The judge returned the compliment.

“They are a fabulous group, and they are doing so well,” Judge McCarthy said.

The judge said one of the biggest keys is the sheriff’s provision of transportation. While it is possible for a client to walk from Dudley District Court to the Webster center, Judge McCarthy said transportation was crucial for East Brookfield clients, who come from rural communities such as New Braintree and Warren.

Of the help the clients get with medical treatment, resumes and job interviews, Judge McCarthy said, “I can’t say enough about the real impact that they have had on human lives. I know kids have been saved.”

The reopening of the center was not without controversy.

Many residents and local officials were against its reopening. They argued that it should be placed in another community, because it was viewed as drawing people in the court system to live in Webster.

Chairman of the Board of Selectman Donald D. Bourque said during the governor’s tour that he was initially against the center’s return to town. But since learning about what the program does, he embraces it.

Mr. Evangelidis, meanwhile, said he stayed the course in the face of pushback from the public because “I believed in what this could do.”

“Every community should have a center like this,” if funding wasn’t a factor, he said.

Apr 24, 2017

K9 Duke gets uniform thanks to Holden Woman’s Club

By:  The Landmark, 

The Holden Woman’s Club with Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis, Capt. Tom Chabot and Duke, wearing his new vest. PATRICIA ROY PHOTO

HOLDEN – The most recent meeting of the Holden Woman’s Club had a distinctly warm and fuzzy feel.

That was courtesy of K9 Duke, a two-year-old yellow Labrador, who is currently employed as a member of the canine program at the Worcester County House of Correction and Jail in West Boylston.

The club paired up with Mass Vest-A-Dog, an organization that supports police dogs in Massachusetts, the Holden Woman’s Club donated $1000 to buy a basic patrol K9 vest for Duke that will support the dog’s vital areas from ballistic, slash and stab attacks, as well as blunt trauma as he goes about his work in the jail.

The vests are fitted, flexible and weigh about five pounds. They are made of the same material as a human officer’s vests.

“We’re pleased to provide these essential safety vests, made possible with generous donations and tireless volunteers – the community’s support is tremendously appreciated,” said Kathy Hinds, president of Mass Vest-A-Dog.

“We work very closely with them,” said Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis of the group.

The connection between the club and canine came about when Holden Woman’s Club member June Carter attended a red carpet event at the Hanover Theater for the 2015 regional premiere of “Shelter Me: Partners for Life.” The film told the story of Nikita, a three-year-old shelter dog from Sterling by way of Puerto Rico, who was adopted by Sheriff Evangelidis’ department and went to work as a narcotics-sniffing dog. The movie went on to be shown nationally by PBS television for their series on animal shelters.

“That film was spectacular,” Carter said and it piqued her interest in the canine program.

Duke lives with his handler Lt. Thomas Chabot and has a life as a family pet as well as a K9 officer. Duke’s first home was with a former jail employee who lived in Holden and was no longer able to care for him, but knew the pet would have a good life with the Sheriff’s department.

Duke is the third dog that Chabot has worked with; he has a retired German shepherd along with Nikita who is best buddies with Duke.

“I have three dog beds, but Nikita and Duke always are in one bed together,” Chabot said.

Like his handler, Duke is expected to be available for work 24/7 whenever needed and just recently was part of a midnight spot check of prisoners’ cells, Evangelidis said.

As a long-time resident of Holden, Evangelidis noted that having the vest donation come from the Holden Woman’s Club was a particularly meaningful one for him.

The Holden Woman’s Club is a 101 year old organization, dedicated to community service, educational and cultural community programs. They annually award scholarships and provide funds and volunteer service to local charities.

One of the major fund-raising projects for the club is the annual spring raffle. Tickets are available at Jed’s Hardware on May 5,6 and 7. The raffle will be held on May 13. Tickets are also available from any club member.

 

Feb 15, 2017

Sheriff Evangelidis Graduates Largest Academy Class in History of Department

Worcester County Sheriff Lewis G. Evangelidis pictured with the new graduates of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Basic Recruit Training Academy #46 including Officers Ted Biba, Michael Buxton, Steven Guercio, Shane Keddy, Alec Mastrototaro, James Ownes & Edward Tortora of Worcester. The graduating class was the largest in the history of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Worcester County Sheriff Lewis Evangelidis announced the graduation of the largest academy class in the history of the Sheriff’s Department.

The graduation ceremony at Anna Maria College welcomed 30 new correction officers to the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office. The group which included five military servicemen were the eleventh class to graduate under Sheriff Evangelidis’ increased hiring standards which he introduced shortly after taking office.

“As we continue to build a strong department dedicated to serving our community, our new officers have met the highest hiring standards in corrections today and have completed the finest training academy in Massachusetts. With almost 90% of our inmate population incarcerated due to addiction issues, the field of corrections can be a very challenging one. Our primary responsibility is to serve and protect the citizens of Worcester County and to do that effectively we must work daily with these individuals so they are less likely to reoffend upon their release.  I am proud to welcome the largest graduating class in the history of our department, comprised of thirty of new correctional officers who will now join us in that mission.” said Evangelidis.

Officers Ted Biba, Michael Buxton, Shane Keddy, Alec Mastrototaro, James Owens, Edward Tortora and Steven Guercio, who was also the recipient of the Francis T. Foley Award given to the recruit who achieves the highest class average, were part of the 46th Graduating class of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office Basic Recruit Training Academy.

The Graduation Process 

All correctional officer applicants must have, at minimum, an associates degree or at least two years of military service.

They must also take and pass a written exam, physical fitness test, background check and psychological screening test.

United States military applicants are given priority status in the hiring process.

Jan 25, 2017

Evangelidis Sworn-In for Second Term as Sheriff

By: Jamie Wilkins/Worcester Patch – January 11, 2017

Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis was sworn-in for his second term serving as High Sheriff on January 5 in Shrewsbury.

 

Flanked by members of his department’s Honor Guard, command staff, local clergy and family, Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis was sworn-in for his second term serving as the county’s 28th High Sheriff on January 5, 2017 at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury.

The Inaugural Ceremony was attended by Massachusetts Lt. Governor Karyn Polito who administered the Oath of Office and had much praise for Evangelidis. “Tonight with friends, family, community leaders, mayors, law enforcement and people from all of Worcester County we celebrate the individual for whom we are here tonight, Sheriff Lew. Under his leadership, Sheriff Evangelidis has gone above and beyond what we expected and strengthened our community here in Worcester County,” Polito continued.

“He is a Sheriff who understands that 90% of inmates suffer from addiction and he has touched inmates lives in a way that had not previously been done and by doing so, he is showing how to reduce the rate of recidivism. Our Sheriff serves this community in so many ways going above and beyond with the senior picnic and winter coat drive,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito.

Evangelidis began his remarks by thanking family, friends, staff, supporters, the department’s honor guard and correction officers as well as fellow law enforcement officials. “Tonight is a celebration of the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department and how grateful we are to have this job in public safety and give back to the citizens of Worcester County,” said Evangelidis.

“We are proud of our promises made and promises kept throughout our first term and the professionalism of our department; including raising the hiring standards, implementing a promotional process based on merit, removing the Sheriff’s name off of the vehicles, prohibiting all political contributions from department employees and their spouses as well as immediately consolidating many costly positions,” Evangelidis continued.

“The role of Sheriff is more than a desk job and I am so proud of what we have accomplished in the mission of public safety to make Worcester County a safer place – at the jail, within our community and in our schools.” Said Evangelidis referring to the many programs implemented during his tenure including increased substance abuse programming, the use of shelter dogs for narcotics detection and inmate re-entry, prioritizing military hiring, inmate work crews that provided over seven million dollars in county-wide savings and an organic jail farming program that donated to local food banks over 20,000 pounds in fresh food.

Evangelidis also shared during his Inaugural remarks that almost 90% of his inmates are incarcerated due to addiction and substance abuse issues and to combat the current opioid epidemic head on he has given extraordinary focus to bringing that message with his Face2Face Program to over 270,000 middle and high school students.

Evangelidis’ address concluded with his vision for his next term which included two new building projects at the jail to address infrastructure needs at what is the oldest county correctional facility in the Commonwealth, establishing a local employment board to assist with inmate re-entry and job training as well as continuing efforts to combat addiction. His Department will also host and house patrol horses, in partnership with the Worcester Police Department, for the newly formed Mounted Police Patrol Unit.

Evangelidis also took a moment to thank many community and civic leaders as well as charitable organizations that have dedicated their lives to helping others in Worcester County and as Sheriff he has worked closely with including; Gordon Hargrove of The Friendly House, Billy Reilly of St. John’s Food for the Poor Program, Pastor Janice Ford of The Reconciliation House of Webster, Warmer Winters of Leominster and St. Anne’s Human Services of Shrewsbury.

“Over the last six years, it has been a great honor and privilege to serve as your Sheriff. I love this job and I am so appreciative of the faith you have have put in me and as we begin our second term at the Sheriff’s Department, I look forward to continuing that service,” said Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis.

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