To the editor of THE EAGLE:
Derek Gentile's June 1 article on the proposed Williamsville Inn conversion [to a residential drug treatment facility] sparked some interest as I am studying Systems Thinking at Worcester Polytechnic Institute and with this knowledge and tools, can offer a different perspective by looking at the systemic structures and patterns associated with this issue.
Given that the proposed center will be for teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17, I investigated information relevant to this aspect. According to the 2010 census, the population of the town of West Stockbridge totaled 1,306 residents with a median age of almost 54 years. Only 4.9 percent of the town's population was between 18-24 years of age, which translates to roughly 20 teens. The "18 and under" category made up 22 percent however, and given the total population; this would amount to 91 teens. Combining both data points results in an estimated total of slightly more than 100 teens living in the town of West Stockbridge -- doesn't seem like very many, just 8.5 percent.
The next element I looked at was the number of existing substance abuse centers in the area which resulted in facts that could impact this issue. Within an hour's drive of West Stockbridge there are at least 17 centers available throughout Massachusetts, New York and Connecticut of which three are in Massachusetts and under a half hour drive. Based on this finding, and considering the population data for the town and surrounding area, it would appear that there may not be a need for the proposed teen treatment center.
Finally, I researched the success rates and other facts relevant to substance abuse centers and found additional noteworthy data. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the chronic nature of the disease [substance abuse] means that relapsing to drug abuse is not only possible but also likely -- 40-60 percent of patients relapse. This statement is concerning as it would be disappointing if a center were opened that didn't provide successful results.
According to another source, the largest age group admitted into to drug rehab during 2008 in Massachusetts was between the ages of 21-25 followed by ages 36-40. These facts also support the previous statement of not needing the center, as the chances of relapse is almost 50 percent and the teen demographic does not fall within the majority of admitted ages.