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MISSION-Hope recovery program gets $2.1M grant

  • Recorder Staff/ Domenic Poli Rose Evans, vice president of operations at the Behavioral Health Network, speaks at the MISSION-Hope Kick-Off at the Franklin County Justice Center on Friday.

  • Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli Family Drug Court participant Eric Kovalchick speaks about his recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction while at the MISSION-Hope Kick-Off at the Franklin County Justice Center on Friday.

  • Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli UMass Medical School MISSION Senior Project Director Dr. Ayorkor Gaba speaks and delivers a presentation at the MISSION-Hope Kick-Off at the Franklin County Justice Center on Friday.

  • People mingle following the MISSION-Hope Kick-Off at the Franklin County Justice Center on Friday. Recorder Staff/Domenic Poli



Recorder Staff
Friday, November 10, 2017

GREENFIELD — There’s a proverb that states you can bring a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink.

“But if the well is there, it helps,” Eric Kovalchick adds.

The 29-year-old was referring to the importance of opportunities provided by programs like MISSION-Hope, an evidence-based comprehensive behavioral intervention aimed at aiding the recovery of alcoholics, drug addicts and their families participating in the Franklin Family Drug Court. The court will benefit from a five-year, $2.1 million grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to expand its services.

Kovalchick, who identifies as a recovering drug addict and alcoholic, spoke Friday at the MISSION-Hope kick-off at the Franklin County Justice Center, touting the family drug court’s accolades and how much it has helped him and his family, especially his 4-year-old son. He closed out the event by addressing the roughly 100 people in attendance, including Democratic Congressmen Jim McGovern and Richard Neal and Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan.

“This is incredible. It really, truly is,” he said. “Addiction does not discriminate. It does not care your social status, it does not care the color of your skin, it does care how much money you make. It could be anybody.”

Kovalchick said he has struggled with addiction for roughly 14 years and has been in recovery for more than a year. He said he is still learning who he is as a person, though he is making progress on that front.

“The eyes that you look into today are full of life and full of eagerness,” he said. “It’s like this cloud has been lifted over my head.”

The $2.1 million grant will expand the family drug court program by 300 percent.

MISSION is a case management and peer support services model developed by Dr. David Smelson of UMass Medical School in Worcester.

Addiction affects families and children, who sometimes get embroiled in custody battles with non-custodial parents who fear the child is put in danger due to their living arrangements. Families who find themselves involved in these types of cases — which have increased steadily over recent years — will get the opportunity through MISSION-Hope to voluntarily enter a court-overseen treatment program while the underlying custody case is put on hold.

People who choose to enter the Family Drug Court are required to participate in local self-help groups multiple times per week, submit to random drug screenings, appear regularly before the court to report on their progress, and work with a recovery coach to address their addiction.

The money, which breaks down to about $420,000 annually if distributed evenly, will finance a study by UMass Medical to evaluate the grant’s success. The Family Drug Court will also hire five workers: two case managers, two recovery coaches and quarter-time nurse.

McGovern described Kovalchick’s testimony as incredible.

“This impact is more than just the person struggling with addiction. It impacts families. And one of the keys to recovery is keeping the family unit together,” he said. “This is a problem that has multiple consequences. We need to look at it holistically.

“I think what we’re doing here in Franklin County is putting forward an integrated approach. And I think this can be a model for other parts of the country,” he added. “I think people here, in Franklin County, they have the winning formula. I think they have a good, effective program put forward. But it costs money to implement and that’s where the federal money is so important.”

Sullivan, a co-founder of the Opioid Task Force of Franklin County and the North Quabbin Region, said MISSION-Hope treats addiction as a family disease.

“It really brings all the different people together to create a stronger family unit, to help a family overcome addiction,” he said. “It hopefully gets people into treatment recovery and gets them back working and being good parents again.”