CEO Christine Macbeth detailed the history behind the opening of the home.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Brien Center on Monday celebrated the opening of a recovery shelter specifically for women.
The center, in partnership with Berkshire Health Systems, opened the 17-bed Keenan House for Women in October on Seymour Street. It will serve women recovering from addiction during the early stages of rehabilitation.
"We are now able to meet a very critical regional need. Keenan House for women will support up to 17 women in early recovery, including services for pregnant and postpartum women," said Brien Center CEO Christine Macbeth.
The center serves as a complement to Keenan House on Bradford Street that had served both men and women until last year. The new center features not only 17 beds but also a nursery for children. It is staffed by clinicians and councilors and focused on building the network of support for women to rebuild their lives.
"Women are encouraged to achieve goals that were at one time insurmountable -- finding rewarding work, pursuing education, and reconnecting with family members," said Megan Wroldson, who heads the program at the newly opened Seymour Street location.
The house is just the latest effort in combating an opioid crisis that is widespread throughout the Berkshires, the state, and the nation. Locally, however, there has been a significant shortage of beds and wait times to get into the 24-bed Keenan House were four to six months -- a wait during the most vulnerable time of someone's addiction.
Back in 2014, the Brien Center had provided testimony that the state should be investing in more beds. In 2016, Berkshire Health Systems opened 30 beds for a crisis stabilization unit. In February 2016, the state issued a request for even more residential recovery homes. The Brien Center had a plan to open one specifically for women and developed a plan to respond to that request.
"While we had a plan, we didn't have a physical location for it. We reached out to Berkshire Health Systems and said, 'we've been talking a lot about this, this is what we want to do, can you help us out?'" Macbeth said.
"Immediately they said, 'we have a couple sites that could be helpful for you to use.' We checked out both of those sites and we wanted sites that were located near the hospital that were on bus routes, convenient to local AA and NA meetings, and ultimately decided on this site here."
That spring, the center was told by the state Department of Public Health that it was "fundable but not funded." Should funding become available, the Brien Center would be given the OK to proceed. So, the Brien Center leaned on its state delegation. State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli was cited as particularly being aggressive in looking for the program to be funded.
Last February, the Brien Center got the approval to proceed with renovations. Berkshire Health Systems began renovating the building and the Brien Center loaded up on supplies and worked toward getting the staffing.
"We opened in October with nine female residents who moved from the now Keenan House for Men, to here. As of today, we have 16 women in the home," Macbeth said.
That collaboration of care from Berkshire Health Systems to the Brien Center hadn't always been there, according to Brien Center's Medical Director Dr. Jennifer Michaels. She said there was no coordinated effort some 20 years ago to treat both mental health and substance abuse -- each program was administered by separate organizations.
But Dr. Alex Sabo and Ray Brien started to break those silos. The two organizations teamed up to provide care for all needs.
"Once we integrated ... people got holistic care. You could get your depression treated in an evidence-based way and addiction treated under one roof," Michael said. "That sounds obvious. But 20 years ago that did not exist."
Michaels said that was the first step. The response to substance addiction took another step when those in the medical and mental fields started to embrace the use of methadone and Suboxone to help tackle an addiction, even as the public opposed their use. Narcan started to be rolled out to reverse overdose deaths.
"Sadly last year, we are in the middle of the fentanyl epidemic, 80 percent of the people who overdosed in our state tested positive for fentanyl. At the same time, our state realized a 10 percent reduction in overdoses. I think it has to do with the collaboration, not just here but in other areas, and the recognition that medications work, and if we widely distribute Narcan, people don't die from overdoses the way they otherwise would," Michael said.
Jennifer Michaels said evidence-based treatment is working.
Berkshire Medical Center followed up with the opening of a Clinical Stabilization Services center, which will provide treatment for up to two to four weeks. After that, the patient can move to a program such as the Keenan House and stay as long as needed.
"When women are ready for recovery, we need to be ready to help. Our program provides stability during the vulnerable period of early recovery. That stability is grounded in the daily structure and support found in the groups that meet at least twice a day," Wroldson said.
Wroldson said the new Keenan House creates a community to help women heal together. The house provides structure, group discussion to talk about relapse prevention and parents and more, and those in the program are encouraged to find support in the community through 12 step programs or various types of therapy. And all of those in the program have access to the full menu of services at the Brien Center, including medicine.
Overall, those in the program create a sober network to help turn their life around.
The opening of the new site was well received by the community. Those attending the open house and touring the facility included numerous representatives from various local service agencies and groups, Pignatelli, state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, state Sen. Adam Hinds, Mayor Linda Tyer, North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard, and former North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright. The last two made it known that they appreciate the Brien Center's latest push to open another recovery center in North Adams.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to email@example.com.
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Hundreds of men stepped into their high heels to participate in the Walk A Mile In Her Shoes march on Thursday night. Although it was not the most graceful of miles, it raised some big money to support the Elizabeth Freeman Center.
"It takes a community to make change and we are that community and for the past nine years, we have been gathering here," Elizabeth Freeman Center Executive Director Janis Broderick said before the march on North Street during Third Thursday. "We are increasing awareness, developing new partnerships, and we are creating new partnerships to reach people better and sooner."
The nonprofit center provides counseling, shelter, and legal advocacy for victims of domestic and sexual violence. It has offices in Pittsfield, North Adams, and Great Barrington.
Broderick said this year so far they have raised at least $75,000. She said there is still money to be counted.
Hundreds of men stepped into their high heels to participate in the Walk A Mile In Her Shoes march on Thursday night. Although it was not the most graceful of miles, it raised some big money to support the Elizabeth Freeman Center.
click for more
The globally recognized company is a leader in technical consulting, software, and test services to promote safety and mission assurance in electromagnetic environments. It is negotiating with the center to house its new space environment test facility.
click for more
Karen Kalinowsky and Scott Graves stood beside the top vote-getter on Tuesday to say she best represented the platforms they'd run on. The endorsement took place on the steps of City Hall, just outside the office of Mayor Linda Tyer, who is seeking a second four-year term.
click for more
The local organization applied for the funds through a competitive grant process offered for the first time by the state Department of Public Health, Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, Office of Youth and Young Adult Services. The bureau awarded 18 grants statewide, with the Brien Center... click for more