Above, file photo of the duplex at 42-44 Arnold Place that will become a recovery center.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Brien Center has announced the receipt of a nearly $400,000 gift from Berkshire Health Systems that will enable it to open the first recovery home in North Adams for those living with significant mental health and substance-use disorders.
Called Keenan House North, the recovery home will provide 16 individuals at a time with the housing and intensive services needed to overcome their behavioral health issues and resume lives as productive members of the community.
"The Brien Center has the experience and comprehensive programs needed to support those with mental illness and addiction get their lives back on track," said M. Christine Macbeth, president and CEO of the Brien Center. "But we don't have the resources to purchase and renovate a large home where this level of intense care would be successful. David Phelps, president and CEO of Berkshire Health Systems, and the BHS board of trustees stepped forward to help ensure that desperately needed services are available in our community."
Berkshire Health Systems purchased the Victorian duplex for $138,000 and is investing another $250,000 to fully renovate the house for use as a recovery home, for a total donation to the Brien Center of nearly $400,000.
"The Berkshires, like the rest of the nation, is experiencing a substance use disorder epidemic, and it was critical that Northern Berkshire have the resources to help those in our community who are suffering to receive the care and guidance they so badly need," said Phelps. "The Brien Center has been and continues to be an important partner with BHS in providing the specialized services needed to help our residents with substance use disorders to receive the necessary treatment and care in order to achieve recovery. When asked to support this effort by our senior leadership team, the BHS Board of Trustees immediately approved this proposal, which once again shows their dedication to our community and the people we all serve."
Keenan House North will be located at 42-44 Arnold Place and will add to the Brien Center's two existing recovery homes in Pittsfield — the 24-bed Keenan House for Men and the 17-bed Keenan House for Women. Keenan North will house both men and women.
Providing additional startup money for the initiative is the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Bureau of Substance and Addiction Services, which awarded the Brien Center a $445,000 contract as part of the commonwealth's promise to add 500 more recovery beds statewide and enhanced services for individuals with the co-occurring disorders of mental illness and addiction.
To meet the requirements of the BSAS contract, Keenan House North will have a more enhanced model of care than Brien's two recovery homes in Pittsfield, which provide housing and access to Brien Center services taking place in the community.
By comparison, Keenan House North will have increased levels of staffing, including clinicians, nurses and direct care staff, so that residents can access comprehensive services in-house and avoid higher levels of care such as hospitalization.
"Providing clinical and residential services to those in recovery from substance misuse, while reducing stigma, is one of the most important and most positive steps we can take in battling the addiction epidemic in our area. Transitional housing offers structure, support, and accountability in a community setting with the goal of a more sustainable recovery journey," said North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard.
The mayor said the city was fortunate to have dedicated partners like the Brien Center and Berkshire Health Systems.
"I'm pleased that the state has made this significant investment in addressing substance abuse disorders in the Berkshires," said state Rep. John Barrett III. "This is an example of how the commonwealth can play a significant role by partnering with the Brien Center and Berkshire Health Systems in providing many with the opportunity to resume productive lives."
According to Megan Eldridge Wroldson, division director of adult and family services at the Brien Center, individuals living with both mental illness and addiction require intense support during their recoveries, including housing, help finding employment, comprehensive Brien services for significant behavioral health issues, and even basic medical care. The enhanced program designed for Keenan House North will meet all of these needs, she said.
Northern Berkshire has been identified as a state "hot spot" for opioid addiction, where 32 percent of all Berkshire County opioid deaths occurred in 2018, Wroldson said.
Located in the heart of North Adams, Keenan House North is within walking distance of many community resources, including the Beacon Community Recovery Center, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, state and federal agencies, churches and local employers.
"With Keenan House North, we will be able to deliver what the state has asked us to provide for members of our community who are in need," Wroldson said. "A recovery home with comprehensive services and strong connections to community support."
"Keenan House North is a beautiful structure. It's going to feel like home," Macbeth said, adding that as word got out in the community about the coming recovery home, the response was "overwhelmingly positive."
"I believe the community was ready," she said. "They understand how much this is needed."
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"They were all my sons." — Joe, in Arthur Miller's "All My Sons"
Pogo's Walt Kelly capsulized man's inhumanity to man when he coined a cynical variation on U.S. Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's 1813 missive to Army General William Henry Harrison, informing, after the victory at Lake Erie, "We have met the enemy and they are ours." Kelly's version, written on the occasion of the infamous McCarthy hearings, and since employed in anti-pollution demonstrations, reads, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
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Fact is, we've been poisoning humankind's well since first we learned how to make a profit out of it while concomitantly rationalizing, if bothering at all, that we'll worry about it later. Well, it's later.
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