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Public Meeting on Pittsfield Methadone Clinic Set for July 23rd

As part of an ongoing process to find a place for an opioid addiction treatment center in Pittsfield, an informational public meeting will be held early next week. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard tells what city residents should expect.

After a second failed attempt by Worcester-based Spectrum Health Services to find a suitable location for methadone clinic in Pittsfield without public input, the City of Pittsfield announced this week that an informational meeting for town residents will be held next week.

In late June, Spectrum’s plans to open a clinic in a Pittsfield neighborhood fell through. City residents expressed their concerns about the plan at a city council meeting after the news broke that Spectrum would not be moving in. Bob Skowron is a resident who lives across the street from the former proposed site on Stoddard Ave.

It appears now that for the first time, all involved parties, state officials, and advocates for addiction recovery programs in Pittsfield will face the public to answer a number of questions – including representatives from Spectrum Health Services, the state Department of Health, The Brien Center –an addiction and mental health services organization, and Berkshire Medical Center.

Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi says that the purpose of the meeting is not for the public to air their concerns over locations, but is to explain the dangers of addiction and lay out Pittsfield need for an opioid abuse treatment center.

Bianchi added that the meeting is meant to deliver direct information from all involved parties to city residents.

The mayor did not specify if information about a lawsuit between Pittsfield and Spectrum will be revealed at the meeting. Spectrum has argued that because they are classified as an educational non-profit, that Federal law allows avoidance of some city zoning regulations.

The meeting could stand to answer questions that city residents have been pondering for the past two years, though a statement provided to WAMC from Spectrum Health Services spokesman Andrew Strecker reads, “All parties have agreed to reserve their remarks for the meeting.” President and CEO of Spectrum Charles Faris will be present at the meeting.

A question and answer period is scheduled for after the meeting.

The meeting will take place on Monday, July 23rd at 6:30 pm at the Crosby Elementary School.

The following information on the meeting schedule was provided in a release from the Mayor's Office of the City of Pittsfield:

·         Opening Remarks: Mayor Dan Bianchi

·         Data on opioid abuse in Pittsfield and how methadone treatment facilities are monitored by the state: Hilary Jacobs, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services at the state Department of Public Health

·         Opioid abuse and current treatment in Pittsfield: Jennifer Michaels, MD., Medical Director of the Brien Center and Attending Psychiatrist at Berkshire Medical Center

·         Berkshire Health Systems Community Pain Management Project, a collaborative effort of healthcare providers, substance abuse specialists and members of law enforcement and the court system designed to address the twin goals of improving chronic pain management and combating drug diversion and misuse in the community: Alex Sabo, MD, Chairman, Department of Psychiatry, Berkshire Medical center

·         Spectrum Health Systems’ record in opioid treatment, demonstrated outcomes, and how they operate in other communities: Charles Faris, CEO of Spectrum Health Systems, Inc

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.