Above, people chat at the Executive Office of Human and Health Services on 37 Main St. Thursday morning. Left, Mark Waterbury, deputy assistant secretary for the administration of finance for HHS, chats with Sue Fisher, a clerk and van driver at the North Adams location.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — State and local officials, human services professionals and Northern Berkshire Community Coalition members gathered for the open house of the recently relocated Executive Office of Human and Health Services on Thursday morning.
The 4,700 square-foot office, located on the third floor of 37 Main St., is home to five state agencies — Rehabilitation Commission, Department of Children and Families, Department of Developmental Services, Department of Transitional Assistance and Commission for the Blind — and is one of four such centers in the state, according to Vince Laberinto, the construction project manager for the state's Executive Health and Human Services. The other three are located in Lynn, Chelsea and Hyannis.
This center is the smallest of the four. It holds 16 cubicles and two offices, as well as a lobby. The center employs about 20 people.
"This is a very, very important day, I think this is government at it's best — trying to find a way to create a solution for smaller communities to continue to provide these very much needed state services," said Mayor Richard Alcombright, who noted that budget cuts a year and a half ago threatened the continuation of health and human services in the city.
Alcombright said the Community Coalition held public forums on the issue and the community advocated retaining the services. Alcombright also credited state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi and state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing for playing a "crucial role" with the state and creating a solution.
"The point that we kept driving home was the fact that 26 miles between moving people to services in Pittsfield, how much different that is than moving people in the eastern part of the state 26 miles," Alcombright said. "And how much more difficult it would be for people to find services and maintain their level of services."
The Department of Transitional Assistance alone serves some 2,000 area residents, according to officials.
"We know that the only way that we're going to get through these fiscal up and downs that we go through is by working together, working smarter, working better," Downing said.
"As the mayor said, you know not to overlook smaller communities," said Angelo McLain, the director of Families and Children Services. "When you make that turn up there on the mountain, you know this is a hub, and a hub needs human services."
Michael Boland, a vocational rehabilitation counselor who works in the new office, was one of many who stressed the community feel of this center.
"You see [clients] at the supermarket on the weekend," Boland said.
The former office was located on 85 Main St. This office, which opened on Sept. 7 and is being leased by landlord David Carver of Scarafoni Associates, serves Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Florida, Hancock, Lanesborough, North Adams, New Ashford, Savoy and Williamstown and is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
For more information about the North Adams center, click here