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Addiction in Franklin County

Watershed moment

New addiction program ready to open; money in pipeline for more

Dorrie Christman, program manager at the 25-bed Watershed Program being set up in a former rest home  on Montague City Road in Greenfield, unwraps a chair in one of the double occupancy rooms.  The residential rehabilitation program is for women in recovery.
Recorder/Paul Franz

Dorrie Christman, program manager at the 25-bed Watershed Program being set up in a former rest home on Montague City Road in Greenfield, unwraps a chair in one of the double occupancy rooms. The residential rehabilitation program is for women in recovery. Recorder/Paul Franz

GREENFIELD — In less than a week, the local availability of long-term addiction treatment for women will more than double.

With 25 beds, the Watershed Program will provide long-term respite and counseling for women breaking free from drugs and alcohol, and in a location geographically accessible to residents.

Center for Human Development staff and colleagues gathered on Monday to celebrate several new initiatives, notably the imminent opening of the Watershed Program.

CHD Vice President of Adult Services Julie Schwager said priority will go to women committed through the Section 35 substance abuse treatment process and to pregnant women and new mothers, because the program is unusual in that it may keep babies with their mothers for up to a year.

Section 35 is designed for involuntary commitment of severely addicted people, but some judges allow people wanting help to have themselves committed, a relatively uncommon last resort.

The program opens for intake on Monday the 17th. This Monday, the former Pioneer Valley Rest Home on Montague City Road didn’t yet have a phone number but Schwager said she has already received multiple inquiries.

Schwager said the program will accept referrals from all sources, including self-referral, beginning Monday. For the moment the contact line is 844-243-4357.

A non profit mental and behavioral health agency operating in western Mass. and Conn., the Center for Human Development last year won a state bid to open the center, with three years of funding from the Department of Public Health.

In the North Quabbin area, the Orange Recovery House has room for 16 men, while Greenfield is home to the Beacon House for Men and Beacon House for Women, each with a capacity of about 13 clients.

The new program is funded by a three-year, $600,000 to $700,000 a year, grant from the Department of Public Health.

Elsewhere, Rep. Denise Andrews has worked $500,000 for residential addiction treatment in the North Quabbin Region, which includes Athol and Orange, into a capital facility repair and improvement bond bill approved Wednesday by the House of Representatives and bound for the Senate.

Andrews said she is hoping to improve capacity, and the money is not designated for any particular variety of residential treatment, which ranges from detox to respite to long-term recovery. “(I’m) just trying to get some money and capacity to deal with longer-term rehab programs, which has been brought up as needed,” Andrews said.

The Opioid Education and Awareness Task Force — spearheaded by Franklin Register of Probate and Family Court John Merrigan, Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan and Franklin County Sherrif Christopher Donelan — has led a push for more local resources to fight what has been called an epidemic of heroin and prescription opioid abuse in the region, as elsewhere.

Andrews had proposed $5 million. “We will try to get added more when the bill goes to the Senate side,” Andrews said.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: ccurtis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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