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Pittsfield Settles In Methadone Clinic Lawsuit

The City of Pittsfield announced that the lawsuit was reported settled in Federal Court earlier this week. As part of the agreement, Worcester-based Spectrum Health Systems, Inc. will open a methadone treatment center, used for treating heroin and other opioid addiction, in downtown Pittsfield.

Spectrum sued the City last year after previous Mayor James Ruberto refused to grant the organization a building permit for their original proposed downtown location. Spectrum claimed that the City’s refusal was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As part of the settlement, Pittsfield will also pay Spectrum $100,000 for trying to block the permitting process. Bianchi says that the money will come out of public funds set aside in anticipation of such a situation.

Mayor Bianchi noted that there was little he could do after he inherited the lawsuit after he took office in January.  A confidentiality agreement between the City and Spectrum angered city residents, who were left in the dark about a location. When word got out that Spectrum was considering a location on Stoddard Avenue, in a residential area, city residents rallied against the location and held protests.

The settled location is within Ward 6 of Pittsfield. Ward 6 City Councilor John Krol said he wished for communication and information while the negotiations between the City and Spectrum were underway.

Krol also echoed a sentiment from City Council President Kevin Sherman, saying that he hopes Spectrum will find a more suitable location.

Currently, three Suboxone clinics, also used to treat opiod addiction, are located in the city. According to state health officials, Pittsfield has one of the highest per capita rates of opioid abuse in Massachusetts.

In an emailed notice from Spectrum, CEO and President Charles Ferris  commented on the settlement. Ferris says that Spectrum is, “primarily concerned with getting the treatment service operational and responding to the significant levels of addiction in Pittsfield. We concur with Mayor Bianchi that the provision of this service is part of the solution, not the problem. As a result we commend the City for reaching a negotiated resolution of this matter."

The Mayor said that the clinic will help some city residents find necessary treatment and could also reduce illegal drug activity in the City.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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