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Julian Ramos cuts the ribbon Friday on the new Have Hope Peer Recovery Center in North Adams.
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Center Director Rebecca Dodge compares notes before the ceremony.
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Jill Daugherty, John Crane and Justin 'Bear' Hervieux speak at the ribbon cutting.
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The Brien Center's John Crane talks about community.
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The gathering watches a video about the construction of the center over the past months.
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Justin Hervieux, left, with state Sen. Paul Mark and state Rep. John Barrett III.
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New Center Believes Hope & Community Can Change Lives

By Kim McManniBerkshires correspondent
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M. Christine Macbeth, president of the Brien Center, says the new center is a 'source of hope.'
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Nine months after its conception, recovery coach Julian Ramos cut the ribbon Friday on the new Have Hope Peer Recovery Center.
The center at 37 Main St. launched Monday with a full calendar of scheduled activities.
"We all see this new center as a source of hope. Hope in and of itself is incredibly important in one's life," said M. Christine Macbeth, president and CEO of the Brien Center at Friday's gathering. "I'm so thrilled that it's part of the name. For years my computer screen used to say 'Keep hope alive.' When this name evolved, I was absolutely thrilled with that."
The Brien Center, the county's largest provider of mental health and substance abuse services, was awarded a five-year contract from the state Bureau of Substance and Addiction Services for the peer recovery support center. The $300,000 in funding comes from the federal Helping to End Addiction Long-term, or HEALing Communities study. The city is participating in the study which includes grassroots strategies to reduce addiction.
The center will be an accessible hub for peer support and substance-use services as well as a support center for families affected by addiction. It will work as a collective community effort, under the the Brien Center umbrella. From the beginning, when a name was chosen for the center, decisions have been made collectively, by the community.
"This was literally built from the ground up, by the community," said John Crane, assistant division director of recovery services at the Brien Center. We picked the flooring, we picked colors, we picked TVs, we picked couches … we picked everything together as a community."
"Really what this is about is the community," he continued. "Community, that's what this center is all about, it's about community. It's about people coming together with a common idea to figure out what works best for all the individual needs in our community."
The center, on the second floor of the Berkshire Plaza (accessed by the side door) is painted a soothing green with inspirational posters on the walls. The large gathering area has plump couches and chairs for more intimate discussions as well as room for group meetings. Two smaller rooms offer space for one-on-one or meditative sessions, to play ping pong or use a computer. There's also a dining area and kitchen and administrative offices. 
Have Hope provides nonclinical support: education, resources, social events, recreational activities and peer counseling. The Brien Center also operates a residential program, Keenan House North, in North Adams.  
"This center is all about peers," Macbeth said. "It's staffed largely by peers. It's driven by the belief that people and families really need each other to walk through the walk of recovery. It's a nonclinical environment. I'm really pleased to say that and I'm a licensed social worker."
Friday's event was attended by dozens of volunteers, members and supporters, including state Sen. Paul Mark, state Rep. John Barrett III, City Councilors Peter Breen and Andrew Fitch, and Berkshire United Way President Thomas Bernard. Also in attendance was Richard Alcombright, who as mayor had championed support for mental illness and substance abuse recovery and now represents the city on the HEALing Communities Study's Community Coalition.
Several volunteers shared hopes and expectations for the recovery center, with Justin "Bear" Hervieux, a volunteer coordinator, noting "We've got a full calendar and there's just a little bit of something for everyone. We have people with huge hearts, just wonderful people who just want to come and help people and be there. It's just wonderful. I don't even know how else to describe it, it's wonderful."
Hervieux summed it up, saying "It's a powerful thing to have hope."
Jill Daugherty, a member of the Peer Advisory Council, said her life had been all about addiction when she was using. 
"I had no purpose or direction. I did nothing at all every day," she said. "The peer recovery center for me is just a brand-new life. I haven't been so excited like this ever in my life I don't think. I know this center is going to do what it needs to do for the community. I'm grateful to have purpose and direction in my life now. 
"I wake up happy and I come to the center. That's what it's about. People coming in. People helping other people. I'm so grateful to be a part of that."
Keenan House North Program Manager Matthew Alcombright described how important this opportunity for nonclinical support is. 
"Having this outlet is vital. For our clients it a huge win. Professionally, for service providers it's a huge win," he said. "Our community deserves this. It pushed Brien out of the comfort zone and away from the clinical setting to have another avenue.  And that's really our goal — get out of the program and be a part of the community."
It's not by chance that Have Hope Peer Recovery Center is located on Main Street in the middle of downtown North Adams.  
"Why do we put recovery centers right on Main Street?" Crane asked. "Because we want to break the stigma. We want to be out there. ... I talk about the center being kind of a hub, a hub both externally and internally. We want people to come in here but we also want to bring our faces out to the community."
Director Rebecca Dodge said she sees the center's community becoming part of the North Adams community at large. 
"I see a community that is going to fall in love with all of us," she said. 
The center is open from 11 to 7 Monday through Saturday. In addition to daily meditation sessions, there will be a variety of regularly scheduled events, such as AA meetings, All Pathway meetings, yoga, creative journaling, and movie and karaoke nights. Additionally there will be presentations, arts and crafts sessions, performances and more.
The center welcomes all, including people at any stage of recovery and those who have been affected by addiction.
"I just want to be a success," said Ramos. "I want people to look at me and say, 'He did it, I can do it.'"

Tags: addiction recovery,   

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Weekend Outlook: Spring Celebrations, Clean-ups, and More

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
This spring weekend, there are a variety of events in and around the Berkshires, including Spring Celebrations, music, cleanups, and more.  
Editor's Pick
Downtown Celebrates Spring Week
Downtown Pittsfield
Saturday & Sunday
There will be various events to celebrate spring, including a beach and tea party, and a free Kids' Paint & Sip event.  
The featured event is "Where's Winston?" a spring scavenger hunt for images of the Pittsfield Police Department's comfort dog, Officer Winston, at a dozen downtown locations. More information here
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