$75,000 earmarked to transform George B. Crane Memorial Center into full-time addiction recovery support center


PITTSFIELD — Following passage of a fiscal 2017 state budget, the George B. Crane Memorial Center on Linden Street is poised to become a full-time addiction recovery support center.

The nonprofit organization, which has offered peer-to-peer recovery programs and other services through donations and fundraising efforts, is now expected to receive $75,000 in state funding, according to state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, who secured the earmark during House budget discussions.

While the $39.1 billion fiscal 2017 budget has yet to be signed by Gov. Charlie Baker, Farley-Bouvier said the line item made it through final House-Senate budget negotiations over the past week and is now part of the spending plan sent to the governor's desk.

At this point, Farley-Bouvier said she's "very confident" the funding will become available for the local nonprofit.

"It's exciting," she said Friday. "I was able to get this in the House budget in April, but it has been difficult. This has been a really challenging week, in light of the [state revenue] shortfall."

She added: "This was something we thought might be let go, but we were able to make the case that it is very important to our area."

The $75,000 will help establish Crane Center staffing and operations with the aim of securing annual funding through a state Department of Health program that already supports 10 recovery centers across the state.

Crane Center board members plan to work with Ruth Jacobson-Hardy, regional manager of the state Department of Public Health's Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, who visited the Pittsfield site in February, and with officials from recovery centers in Holyoke and Greenfield as they build up the Pittsfield program.

Crane board members have visited recovery centers in Holyoke and Greenfield and held an informational meeting here in March at which Debbie Flynn-Gonzalez, director of the Holyoke center, was a guest speaker. The support centers were created and funded in recent years as the state began responding to an opioid addiction crisis and overdose epidemic.

The centers typically provide a meeting place, access to services and information, supportive community environments and peer-organized programs — including and similar to Alcoholic Anonymous meetings.

At the Crane Center, at 81 Linden St., a once-vacant building that was renovated over several years for office and meeting space, recovery groups meet seven days per week, 365 days per year.

An estimated 700 individuals attended meetings over the past year at the center — most attending multiple times per week; and total attendance for recovery meetings since it opened on Linden Street in 2010 exceeds 200,000.

Currently, there are no paid staff members, but about 20 support groups hold sessions at the center. A proposed annual budget for operating the center with core support from the state was estimated at $50,000, board members have said. That includes $40,000 for a program coordinator and $10,000 for stipends for recovery support counselors. Those figures are similar to the annual budget figures for other recovery centers, they said.

"This is exciting; really good," board member Mary McGinnis said Friday.

She and Farley-Bouvier said the Crane Center provides crucial follow-up support to people struggling with addictions after they receive treatment at the in-patient McGee Recovery Center at Berkshire Medical Center, where McGinnis works as a nurse, or at a soon-to-open intermediate recovery care unit at BMC, where treatment can continue for longer terms of approximately 30 days.

"I think it is important for people to know that we need to have a continuum of care," after initial treatment services, Farley-Bouvier said.

Those with addictions, McGinnis said, often need continuing "wrap-around" support long after their initial treatment, and peer-to-peer efforts have proven both effective and cost-effective in providing that and in helping people turn around their lives.

She said a meeting of the Crane Center board of directors is tentatively planned for next week to discuss how to staff the center and efforts to secure annual DPH and additional grant or other funding support.

The George B. Crane Memorial Center was created after a fire destroyed a former SIOGA Club of Berkshire County (Sobriety Is Our Greatest Asset) meeting place in 2004. The club had formed in 1977 to support recovering alcoholics, and prior to the fire had rented space for meetings at the corner of Fenn and First streets.

The new center — named for the late attorney who was one of the founders of the SIOGA Club — opened in 2010 after years of work by volunteers and support from local financial institutions, the city, church groups, and the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office Work Release Program.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.

On the web ...

For information on the Crane Center, visit www.thegbcmc.org.


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