Suicide Prevention Group Gives Leadership Award To Berkshire President

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention (MCSP) has selected Brian Berkel to receive the Leadership in Suicide Prevention Award this year.
Berkel, a retired Lieutenant with the State Police, currently serves as President of the Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention (BCSP). In his role as President, Berkel has created a bridge between BCSP and first responders, the District Attorney's office, local community mental health providers, minority organizations, and other area mental health and suicide prevention advocates.
In his role, Berkel led a group of suicide loss survivors and volunteers to form and launch a Local Outreach to Suicide Survivors (LOSS) team in Berkshire County. LOSS teams are made up of trained first responders and survivors of suicide loss who go to the scene of a suicide to provide support, information about available resources, and hope to the newly bereaved. The goal of the LOSS model is to make sure survivors do not wait years to get the help they need to cope with this devastating and traumatic loss.
Without postvention, the average length of time that survivors of suicide loss take to reach out for help is 4.5 years; research shows that people bereaved by a suicide loss are at increased risk for dying by suicide themselves. The Berkshire County LOSS team will work in conjunction with the Berkshire County District Attorney's Office.
In addition to the LOSS team, Berkel supported a media campaign to promote the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, which provides free and confidential emotional support to people in a suicidal crisis or emotional distress. He also arranged for Board members to receive various trainings such as Talk Saves Lives, Mental Health First Aid, and Signs of Suicide (SOS). He is also a strong advocate for gun safety.
In addition to his long-term affiliation with BCSP, Berkel also serves as Treasurer on the board of Berkshire HorseWorks and for the Pittsfield Lions Club, as well as serving as a Board Member for the Non-Profit Center of the Berkshires. Past community involvement incudes volunteering as a mentor to at-risk youth through Big Brothers of Berkshire County and 18 Degrees.
"I have worked with Brian [Berkel] on the Coalition for about nine years. I have always respected him as a board member, but his leadership is inspiring. His ability to form positive relationships across the community is exactly what the coalition needs in order to connect those who struggle and provide support programs for those who have lost a loved on to suicide," he said.
The Leadership in Suicide Prevention Award award will be presented to Berkel on March 4, 2023, at the annual MCSP State House Day.
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Pittsfield ConCom OKs Zebra Mussel Treatment

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Conservation Commission has OKed a zebra mussel pesticide treatment in Onota Lake if the invasive species are confirmed.

On Thursday, the panel approved a notice of intent application for the use of EarthTec QZ within a specified treatment area of the lake.  

"We're not entirely 100 percent sure that there is an infestation of zebra mussels at Onota Lake. Last September, a water sample was taken and the DNA of zebra mussel was detected in that water sample. This was a water sample taken near the boat ramp at Burbank Park. Subsequent water samples were taken later in the fall and very early this spring, there were still non-detects in those water samples for DNA showing the presence of zebra mussels," Park, Open Space and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said.

"We continue to, most recently as this Tuesday, we are sampling for zebra mussel EDNA and we should know the results of those samples certainly by early next week."

McGrath addressed the commission with a sense of urgency, as the lake is currently around 52 degrees Fahrenheit and the zebra mussels begin to activate around 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  He described it as "an opportunity to take what could be a potential massively serious ecological issue at Onota Lake and nip it in the bud."

"What we're proposing here is a collaborative approach where there are many stakeholders involved," he said. "This is not Jim McGrath proposing the use of EarthTec QZ at the lake. This is something we have been very deliberative about."

The application was continued from the previous meeting so that it could be filed as a state Ecological Restoration Limited Project.

"Really what it means is that it's eligible, which I think this project meets the eligibility requirements, it affords the right to not have to comply with general performance standards for the resource area that's being impacted," Conservation Agent Robert Van Der Kar said.

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