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North Adams Readies For Recovery Vigil, Opiates Remain A Problem

JD Allen
the Voice of Recovery Rally, Walk and Vigil is Saturday at 1 at Colegrove Park, North Adams.

Area residents are getting together for a rally, walk and vigil to raise awareness of opioid addiction and recovery Saturday in North Adams, Massachusetts.

Collin Woods was born in Pittsfield and raised in Clarksburg in what looked like an average family.

“I grew up in this area and dealt with addiction in my family, and so I saw that firsthand, and lived a relatively normal life,” Woods says. “Sports, small school, very close friends, had the plan to go off to college to fulfill taking over the family business in North Adams.” 

Woods said alcohol played a significant role in his life at a young age.

“Went from alcohol – went to college, alcohol became an issue in college. Was kicked out of college, came back to North Adams,” Woods says. “The alcohol was causing acute consequences: arrests, suspended licenses, so opiates became an option.”

Woods found work in a pharmacy.

“I had access to them,” Woods says. “And it pretty much took off from there.”

Woods soon became homeless, always craving his next fix. He says it wasn’t until he hit rock bottom that he went to a family member who was in recovery for help.

“And to have somebody hold their hand out and say ‘I have been through this before and here’s the way out,’ with that personal experience, that is crucial,” Woods says.

Woods has been in recovery for six years. And he says he’s going to the Voice of Recovery Rally, Walk and Vigil in North Adams Saturday to lend a helping hand.

Dave Risch, who has been in recovery for more than 30 years, says it’s not unusual for people with a substance use disorder to feel isolated.

“And the more we get to talk about it, the less stigma there is going to be,” Risch says.

Wendy Penner, Director of Prevention and Wellness at the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, says the goal is to make recovery visible. The coalition is organizing the rally.

“This epidemic is not just impacting with people with a substance use disorder with addiction within our community. It’s impacting those closest to them and they are suffering right along,” Penner says.

Woods agrees. Now working at a sober house at the Berkshire Transition Network in Great Barrington, Woods says it’s important to flip the script on what addiction looks like for most people.

“You think of death, you think of arrests, you think of broken homes, and that’s all part of it, and for somebody, it’s a scary step to take,” Woods says.

“Yeah, it is scary but it is worth it,” Risch says.

Risch says he has seen an increase in people with all kinds of addictions showing up to working groups. He’s a member of Al Anon.

Risch says people need to change the way they think about and describe addiction.

“Believe it or not some really basic stuff like ‘I cannot change another human being,’ because when the disease starts taking over the family member wants the person to be the way they were or be the way they want them to be, until they find out that they can’t,” Risch says.

About 30 people die from opioid overdoses in Berkshire County every year. More than half are from Pittsfield, the county’s largest city.

The majority of the county’s recovery services and programs are based in the Pittsfield area. Needle exchange and counseling center Tapestry Health and methadone clinic Spectrum both serve more than 200 a week in northern Berkshire County. But…

“A lot of people are not being successful because we do not have all the right supports in place,” Penner says.

Penner is calling for a recovery center in the region, which has several rural stretches. The nearest center is in Pittsfield.

North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright says the rally is a safe place for people to start recovery.

“To help our communities through this struggle and to reduce the blight upon the community by addiction,” Alcombright says.

It starts at 1 at Colegrove Park.

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