Corrections Center Moves So MGM Can Build Springfield Casino
A substance abuse treatment program for jail inmates from throughout western Massachusetts has moved out of its longtime home in Springfield to make way for construction of the MGM casino.
The Western Massachusetts Correctional Alcohol Center has vacated the building in Springfield where it opened 30 years ago, adhering to a May 8th deadline to turn the property over to MGM. But, it will be another two weeks before the rehab program is operating in its new, albeit temporary, location in a former nursing home in Holyoke.
The planned move from Howard Street in Springfield to the former Holyoke Geriatric Authority building was announced three weeks ago by Hampden County Sheriff Mike Ashe putting an end to months of uncertainty about the fate of the successful drug rehab program.
Inmates in the treatment program are being housed in a pre-release center outside the secure gates of the main county jail in Ludlow while work is done to retrofit the former nursing home, according to a spokesman for Ashe. There has been no interruption to the inmates’ rehabilitation regimen.
The number of inmates in the program, which varies from time to time, is down to around 100. The former nursing home has the capacity to treat 182 patients.
Holyoke DPW Superintendent Bill Fuquay said the building is in good shape, but because it has been vacant for nearly a year, it requires cleaning and some repairs before the sheriff’s department can move in.
" Get the life safety systems back on line. Because we had no heat in the building during the winter we drained the plumbing and sprinkler systems. We have to go back through those mechanical systems, repair what might have broken and reactivate them," he explained.
Additional retrofitting of the former nursing home to accommodate the needs of the treatment program includes the construction of a central security office and a large meeting room.
The sheriff’s department is leasing the building for 18 months and plans to move the rehab center back to Springfield.
More than 17,000 people have been treated in the program since it started in 1985. Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni said the center is a coveted placement for non-violent drug offenders.
"This is a wonderful institution that Sheriff Ashe started. It has literally helped thousands of people who suffered with addiction and that is something we are going to focus on going forward," he said.
A spokesperson for MGM Springfield said all tenants in the 19 buildings that the company acquired earlier this year have now moved out, or have finalized relocation plans. MGM is still waiting for state and local permits to begin actual demolition, but fences have been put around the vacant buildings.
The city of Springfield’s Department of Health and Human Services will move next month out of a building on State Street that MGM is going to tear down to build the casino.