James Foy, Thomas Irwin and Clay Lifflander: New substance abuse treatments require community effort



Substance abuse among young teens is a tragic epidemic and the urgent need to offer both immediate and long-term treatment options -- for the teens and for their families -- cannot be understated. We all know of someone -- often in our own neighborhoods and schools -- who is struggling with addiction, or with trying to save a child who has been devastated by this disease.

There is a tragic gap between the number of adolescents with substance use disorders and the relatively small number who actually receive treatment services. Just 11.3 percent of adolescents needing drug treatment actually receive services and few such programs do an adequate job of including the family into their programs. Programs that have high staff to client ratios have the highest likelihood of treatment success, for both client and family, and higher staffing levels lead to a safer environment.

Short-term detox and outpatient programs are simply not enough for so many young people and their families. For some of these young people and their families, The Williamsville Center’s proposed treatment program, developed and managed by leading experts in addiction medicine, will provide the most progressive care, supervision and treatment for recovery and reconnection.

As the project has come to light some neighbors have raised very reasonable questions and concerns regarding the proposed program, which we feel confident we can address. Other neighbors have raised a fear factor to a pitched level. We’d like to answer some of these concerns prior to the Tuesday, June 10 Zoning Board of Appeals hearing.

Traffic, safety and property values around the area are legitimate issues for discussion. Our extensive research and experience gives us every confidence that The Williamsville Center would experience no detrimental community impact. Property improvements will enhance the neighborhood, round-the-clock staffing will support overall neighborhood safety and approximately 40 new jobs will be created. A local economic activity benefit of $10 million every year is estimated when salaries and the purchase of goods and services are factored. Traffic will certainly level off compared with the current use during the peak summer season.


The program will have no more than 20 young people at one time, who must meet strict criteria. Court involvement for anything other than drug addiction-related offenses is a barrier to admission. Family involvement is a core element of this program. The program is funded with private pay and/or private insurance. A scholarship fund will be established to provide financial aid to the families of local teens.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has vetted our proposed program, ownership and professional team, and has deemed the program, eligible to apply for DPH licensure, which must be in place prior to operation.

Some neighbors have suggested all a range of detriments that will befall Williamsville with the addition this program. We regret that this apprehension has arisen, and that our efforts to hold a second neighborhood meeting were declined. There are a number of successful residential programs in the Berkshires where intensive supervision and community support are the key to success.

If more programs are not developed, adolescents will continue to be underserved. Ideally, for real recovery to occur, a new treatment paradigm will evolve, in which communities and neighborhoods will become informed, supportive partners in this effort.

We hope that our continued accessibility and our commitment to transparency regarding this program will help to diffuse some of these apprehensions.

When it comes to addiction, it takes a village -- along with highly trained professionals, supportive families, and the appropriate community setting with supportive neighbors -- to set the conditions for recovery. We invite the West Stockbridge and Williamsville communities to join us in this much-needed program.

James Foy and Clay Lifflander are partners in Williamsville LLC. Thomas Irwin, Ph.D, is formerly a substance abuse program director with McLean Hospital and New York Presbyterian Hospital.


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