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Berkshire DA Andrea Harrington talks about some of the efforts her office is making to address drug use, domestic abuse and victim empowerment.

DA Harrington Hosts Informational Town Hall on Reforms, Community Outreach

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass — Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington shared the reform and community outreach her office is undertaking during a town hall event at Adams Visitors Center on Tuesday. 
Harrington discussed several topics, including domestic violence, drug policy, victim empowerment, discrimination and equity. After her presentation, she took questions from the small audience.
"I've learned so much from hearing from folks in our community and hearing about your concerns and your ideas for justice and public safety here in Berkshire County," Harrington said. 
The town hall was the first of three the Berkshire District Attorney's Office is hosting in the coming weeks. The second is scheduled for Great Barrington Town Hall at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 10, with the third slated for the Berkshire Athenaeum in Pittsfield at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 16.
Harrington spoke at length about the changes her office has made to the policies surrounding the policing of drugs. She said she believes it is more effective to tackle issues that lead to people using drugs rather than placing strict restrictions and sentences on drug users. 
"My primary objective when I became a district attorney was to shift the focus away from what I would pejoratively call the war on drugs and to focus on prosecuting violent crime and holding violent offenders accountable," she said. "We have done a lot to make that shift." 
One potential option that Harrington discussed was creating safe consumption sites, where those who have physical dependencies on drugs can use them safely and without risk of overdosing. She said she believes these sites are safe and make it easier for people to access mental health and other medical resources.
"I don't want Berkshire County to be left behind," she said. "We're considering starting a pilot program of these safe consumption sites. I don't want us to be forgotten because I think we can really easily demonstrate that we have a very high need [for addiction resources]." 
Harrington also discussed how the district attorney's office is putting more resources into working with victims of domestic violence and other crimes. She said, among other outreach initiatives, the office has 10 advocates who can support victims and keep them updated on their cases. 
"We show victims, who are some of the most vulnerable people in our community, that we care about them," she said. "Law enforcement needs to build those bridges so that people will come forward and share with us that they've been victims so that we can prosecute people and get dangerous predators out of our communities."
When asked by an audience member about mental health resources for young people, Harrington said there needs to be more collaboration within the community about advocating for mental health resources. 
"There needs to be proper medical care for young people in our community and that is severely lacking," she said. "I think we need to raise the pay for the people that provide these services. We need to treat mental health services on parity with other health services." 
In an interview following the town hall, Harrington said the goal of these events is to help make her office more accessible and to present to people the work they are doing. 
"One of the biggest challenges for my office is sharing our great work with people. We do a lot, and this was just kind of a sliver," she said. "One of the things I've told my team is we have to stop doing new things, and we need to put more focus on letting people know what it is that we're already doing." 
Harrington said she feels community outreach is a crucial part of her job. She explained that connecting with the community helps to build trust for law enforcement. 
"People have lost a lot of faith in institutions, especially in law enforcement, given what you see with the numbers around racial justice and what people see on the news," she said. "Trying to build up that faith of people, that there's integrity in the system, is a critical component of our community outreach. And for us, learning from the community is so critical, learning like what people are concerned with." 

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Adams Animal Rescue to Host Fundraiser for 'Roxy'

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff

ADAMS, Mass. — Roxy, a pit bull mix found sick and malnourished in July by Adams Animal Control, is in better health under the care of Kathy "Skippy" Hynes of animal rescue Got Spots Etc.

Hynes said Roxy has been in her care since July, noting that her condition has improved significantly in the last few months. Got Spots Etc. is hosting a fundraiser on Saturday, Dec. 4, at 2:30 p.m. at the Firehouse Cafe on Park Street from for Roxy and the other dogs at the rescue.

Hynes said Animal Control Officer Kimberly Witek contacted her about caring for Roxy shortly after Adams Police found her and opened an investigation into animal neglect. She said Roxy has several health problems, including poor vision, a cancerous tumor and diabetes.

"You could see her vision was so poor. She was bumping into things," she said. "And she was so skinny, and so she stayed with me."

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