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Addiction in Franklin County

Detox, stabilization treatment centers coming to Franklin County to help fight opioid addiction

After years fighting a growing opioid addiction problem with no local detox option but a jail cell or a bed on the hospital’s mental health floor reserved for the suicidal, the drug detoxification center promised by Gov. Deval Patrick took a step closer to reality this week. And more.

The Department of Public Health is seeking a vendor to run not only a 32-bed detox center but a 32-bed next-step stabilization center as well.

Patrick pledged a detox center by the time he left office in a visit to Greenfield this spring, and a state task force’s addiction spending priorities list bolstered hopes for the center. The stabilization beds are new.

State Sen. Stan Rosenberg’s office issued a release announcing the DPH move, quoting DPH Commissioner Cheryl Bartlett.

“I am pleased to announce that the Department of Public Health issued an RFR (Request for Response) seeking a vendor to operate a 32-bed inpatient Detoxification program and a 32-bed inpatient Clinical Stabilization program in Franklin County,” Bartlett said. “This has remained one of the priority recommendations of Governor Patrick’s task force on opioids. Today’s roll-out of the RFR is a first, but very important step in successfully expanding access to needed services across the whole Commonwealth in response to the opioid epidemic facing New England and the nation.”

Marisa Hebble, coordinator of the locally grown regional Opioid Education and Awareness Task Force said she had only recently heard the stabilization would be included.

“It’s so important,” Hebble said. “The clinical stabilization piece is about two weeks, I hear so many stories about people going through 5 to 7 days of detox, coming out and that hasn’t really served them very well, really because that model is based on alcohol addiction, opioid addiction is such a different beast that the longer someone can be in a clinical care setting the better.”

The extra time gives people more time to plan for the next step — which may be a long-term inpatient or outpatient treatment program, if available, or drug therapy — in a medically-monitored setting.

“Of course it doesn’t fill in all the gaps that we have for treatment in western Mass., but it helps, it’s a really good start,” Hebble said.

The RFR is the first step in the bid process, to be followed by a bidders’ conference in August, a bid opening in September, and a contract award anticipated before the end of the year.

Rosenberg, D-Amherst, called the move the beginning of a necessary partnership.

“Surely part of the solution to the opioid crisis must be strong, effective community-based education and treatment programs. Our governor is true to his word and with the continued efforts of the Franklin County Task Force and our legislative delegation — state Reps. Steve Kulik, D-Worthington, Paul Mark, D-Peru, and Denise Andrews, D-Orange, and state Sen. Ben Downing, D-Pittsfield, — it is my hope that a bad situation will start to get better and our communities will start to heal,” Rosenberg wrote.

Rosenberg, Kulik and Andrews have pushed for treatment funding at their respective levels of the legislature, including securing funding for the regional task force and writing funding for a new mental health and drug rehabilitation facility in the North Quabbin into the state budget.

The Request for Response document seeks existing health care providers with the “capacity and demonstrated expertise” to run a 32-unit detox program and a 32-unit stabilization program, with preference given to vendors who can and will manage both in the same location.

Franklin Medical Center ran a detoxification program in Greenfield until the Romney administration cut funding in the early part of the last decade. The building was demolished.

The Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, a division of the DPH, estimates it will purchase approximately 5 beds per day in each program, at an unspecified rate. Such programs are often financed by a mixture of state funding and private insurance.

The stabilization program would be expected to serve both adults exiting detox and adults who do not qualify for detox but have substance abuse disorders and related complications.

Bids are to be opened Sept. 5 in Boston, with an anticipated contract start date of Dec. 31.

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

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