Decision on proposed drug treatment center will have to wait until September
GREENFIELD — A nonprofit agency that serves western Massachusetts will have to wait until early September to hear whether it has the Planning Board’s approval to renovate the former Pioneer Valley Rest Home on Montague City Road into a 25-bed women’s substance abuse treatment facility.
The wait didn’t seem to be a problem for Jim Goodwin, president and chief operating officer for the Center for Human Development, because he said he is still waiting to hear whether the state will contract CHD to open the facility.
“We are one of four applicants,” said Goodwin on Thursday night, when he went before the town board for a site plan review.
Goodwin said the facility could end up in Greenfield or might end up somewhere else.
“Greenfield could really use this service and support,” said Goodwin.
He said CHD would invest about $300,000 to renovate the former rest home, which has been sitting vacant since 2006, when the rest home closed.
“It has been sitting there a long time in disrepair,” said Goodwin. “We have constructed a plan to bring it up to code and turn it into a nice facility.”
Goodwin said the facility would also bring 14 jobs to Greenfield, including 11 full-time jobs. He said the jobs would be a mix of professional and paraprofessional and there would be five to six staff on at all times in the 24-7 facility.
He said it would house up to 25 women at one time, most of whom would stay for three to six months. He said some women, who have babies under 6 months old, could stay with their babies until they reached 6 months old.
“That’s rare, but it’s possible,” said Goodwin.
He said it would not be an outpatient facility, so people would not be constantly coming and going.
He said CHD would raze the two smaller buildings on the site, which would allow for more parking, and would erect an 8-foot fence in the back, because there is a steep drop-off to the river there.
Goodwin said outdoor lighting would be minimal, so as not to disturb neighbors, and snow removal would be taken care of by someone CHD contracts.
Mayor William Martin asked Goodwin if the nonprofit would consider paying something in lieu of taxes to the town, and said he is concerned that some residents may leave the facility after three months and become homeless in Greenfield.
Martin said he doesn’t want the town to have to absorb any costs.
Goodwin didn’t answer the question about the town’s voluntary “in lieu of taxes” program directly, but said that 91 cents on each CHD dollar goes toward treatment and the other 9 cents goes toward overhead costs.
When Martin asked why the facility couldn’t be located in an empty wing of the local hospital, Goodwin said that is because hospital settings don’t seem to work because they are too rigid and sterile. Instead, a “community setting” needs to be created for the women.
“I’m just protecting the interest of the community,” said Martin.
Goodwin said many of the residents, because there is such a huge success rate in those types of facilities, will become active members of the community.
Goodwin said if CHD gets the contract from the state, the state will want work to begin as soon as possible, so that the facility can open as soon as possible.
He said CHD has put money in escrow to hold the property, but has not signed a purchase and sale agreement yet.
One abutter at the Planning Board meeting Thursday night said she thinks the facility is a “great idea.”
Planning Board Chairwoman Roxann Wedegartner continued the site plan review until Sept. 5 to give board members time to read the entire proposal and review all documents, including a couple from town departments.
CHD offers men, women, children and families a broad range of programs, including ones for the elderly, foster care, substance abuse treatment, cancer support and mental health, to name a few.
Regional experts on substance abuse said in a recent Recorder series on addiction that there is a big demand for residential drug treatment programs in the area. There is only one residential drug rehabilitation program in the country for women, and two for men, with about 20 beds in each. Former addicts expressed frustration with the scarcity of such programs.
Jordan Quinn, a developer who had said in 2009 that she wanted to open a bed and breakfast in the former rest home, still owns the property. She bought it in 2009 for $50,000.
At the time it closed, the 50-year-old rest home had 22 patients and 15 staffers.