Editorial: Let’s welcome proposed video game addiction retreat center

  • Leyden residents begin to fill the Town Hall auditorium for a Planning Board hearing on July 25 regarding a proposed video game and internet addiction treatment center. Staff Photo/Zack DeLuca

Published: 8/6/2019 10:50:58 AM

In a city where battling the opioid crisis is at the forefront of many community members’ minds, it’s easy to forget that there are other substances or objects that can cause people to lose their way.

That list of temptations goes beyond alcohol, nicotine or caffeine. It can include actions, too, such as gambling, which is why the state Economic Development and Emerging Technologies Committee is considering a bill requiring all slot machines to have a sticker explaining their addictive nature.

And then there’s video games. For many people, video games are part of a childhood or teenage phase that is outgrown, but other individuals find them more difficult to give up.

Denise Paul, whose son struggled with video game addiction, remembers how he had been recruited to Stonehill College for baseball as a left-handed pitcher. But before long, video games were all he could think about.

“In six months, he lost his scholarship and had to medically withdraw from school — not from drugs, just video games,” Paul said. “We are the first generation of parents raising kids with all of this technology, we didn’t know how bad it could be.”

After seeking help, Paul said the only treatment program for video game addiction in the country was in Washington state. She said the treatment center helped her son “fall back in love with what life is supposed to be.” A year after leaving for treatment, her son is now working and has registered for classes this fall.

Now, a national organization called Odyssey Behavioral Healthcare believes that Leyden is just the place to help others struggling with gaming addiction to fall back in love with their lives, too.

We couldn’t agree more.

Last month, Odyssey went before the Leyden Planning Board regarding its plan to buy and convert Angels’ Rest Retreat Center at 63 North County Road into a specialized treatment facility for young adults — mostly men ages 18 to 25 — with compulsive internet and video game use.

Currently, Angels’ Rest, which hosts retreats and events, operates under a special permit granted in 2003. Odyssey needs the Planning Board to grant it an extension for the new center to operate.

In addition to purchasing the property at Angels’ Rest, Odyssey hopes to buy the home of Angels’ Rest owner Jennifer Paris, at 155 Mid County Road, to be used for counseling and therapeutic services and off-site office space.

The new center would be dubbed The Greenfield Center, after Dr. David Greenfield, who founded The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, and is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine.

According to Bill Parsons, Odyssey’s vice president of development, the organization is interested in the town of Leyden because of its “peaceful” wooded surroundings and the area’s connection to nature. They considered locations in Lenox, Hadley, Pittsfield and Springfield, but Parsons said Angels’ Rest is best suited for this type of program.

We agree that Leyden’s environment makes it the perfect place for such a treatment center. Its very flag boasts its rural nature with its “the hills are alive” motto — 27 hills to be exact. The beauty and peacefulness that can be found in Western Massachusetts — especially in communities where cellphone service and internet are poor — could only help people to “fall back in love with what life is supposed to be.”

Though we feel Leyden is the optimal location, it would simply be wonderful for people who are struggling with video game and internet addiction to have another option when it comes to treatment sites. In addition to becoming a destination for recreation, Western Massachusetts would become a destination for people looking to find themselves again. The Greenfield Center, as it’s proposed to be called, would certainly carry on the tradition of self-discovery that Angels’ Rest started through its yoga and meditation retreats.

We do, however, have one minor concern. Though we don’t doubt that Dr. David Greenfield deserves to have a center named after him, it does seem problematic to have The Greenfield Center be so close to Greenfield, but actually be in Leyden. It opens the doors for plenty of confusion, especially for people who aren’t familiar with our area.

If indeed the Leyden Planning Board approves Odyssey’s permit extension request — the board meets again on Aug. 14 — we want the new treatment center to succeed. It would bring another welcome resource to an area that knows a thing or two about addiction, and where community members are battling it in inspiring ways.

Let’s keep that momentum going.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261
Fax: (413) 772-2906


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