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More than 20 community organizations have joined Pittsfield's new Hub to help 'at-risk' residents. Here is how it works

Pittsfield Police present new Hub coalition to city's Homelessness Advisory Committee

The Pittsfield Police Department unveiled a new Hub coalition to the city's Homelessness Advisory Committee on Wednesday, describing how the model intends to link providers to serve residents most at risk of violence and harm. 

PITTSFIELD — Public safety agencies and social service providers say they have had seven interventions for “at-risk” residents since the launch of the city’s new Hub coalition two months ago.

The Hub coalition, modeled after the Chelsea Hub and its Canadian predecessor, brings together more than 20 community organizations every two weeks, around a table, to discuss how to support Pittsfield residents or community members living in “acute elevated risk” — or situations where there is a risk of imminent harm.

Capt. Thomas Dawley, Pittsfield Hub chair and interim detective bureau commander, said the first seven residents the Hub has connected with are working through drug and alcohol abuse, mental health crises, homelessness and domestic abuse.

“The Police Department and the justice system can only go so far — our reach is only so far,” Dawley said. “Whereas this collaboration between all the participants makes our reach far greater to help these people.”

Police Chief Michael Wynn, Dawley and co-responder and Brien Center clinician Ariel Ramirez presented the Hub’s work to the Homelessness Advisory Committee on Wednesday. Wynn said that, since last fall, his department has worked to organize and train providers in the Hub’s unique process. He emphasized to the committee that the Hub is not a one-time program or project, but a substantive change in the way community organizations communicate with one another and support residents.

The Pittsfield Hub is following the model established by the Chelsea Hub coalition in 2014 which includes scripted meetings to protect potential client's privacy and data.

“The Pittsfield Hub table, like any other Hub table, is not a program,” Wynn said. “The Hub is not looking to replicate services or provide services — it’s an attempt to bring service providers together in a collaborative way to address residents who have been determined to be at extreme or acute risk of multiple risk factors.”

Wynn said that, for several years, he has been looking to bring a model like the Hub table to Pittsfield. What finally brought people together around this effort was the coalition’s rigid “filter model,” which helps navigate some of the data privacy concerns.

How the Hub works

Dawley explained that each meeting of the Hub follows the same script, which walks the group through increasingly more detailed information about a person and their situation, in order to find the best group of providers to intervene.

At the start of the meeting, any of the service providers can bring forward the basic information — age, gender and risk factors — of someone they would like to refer to the group. In most cases, the referring party has consent from the client to bring their case to the Hub, though Dawley said that, because of the level of risk, some cases are brought forward without the client’s consent.

The entire group then decides whether the case presents a great and immediate enough risk to require Hub intervention.

After the risk is agreed upon by the table members, the referring organization reveals the person’s name and a little more about the situation they are experiencing. At this point, the other members of the Hub chime in and say whether they have worked with the person being referred or think their organization could help the person.

This group of providers, who have worked or are willing to work with a person, forms a subcommittee focused specifically on this one case. That committee meets separately after the general Hub meeting, in order to come up with a plan for how to help the person over the course of the next 24 to 48 hours.

At the next Hub meeting, in two weeks, the subcommittee gives the entire table an update on what has been achieved since the previous meeting.

So far, of the eight cases referred to the group, only one referral hasn’t met the acute elevated risk threshold, according to Dawley.

The buy-in to the new model is spreading throughout Berkshire County. In December, the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition launched a Hub focused on North Adams, Adams and Williamstown residents.

During the presentation to the Homeless Advisory Committee, there was a brief mention that the Three County Continuum of Care — it serves Berkshire, Franklin and Hampshire counties — might join the Pittsfield Hub’s efforts.

“I don’t see the need for [the Hub] ever stopping,” Wynn said.

“What we foresee is that the population that is being referred changes,” Wynn added. “And, hopefully, we can turn some attention to some issues that are below the radar or happening behind closed doors once we deal with the acute visible signs of need in the community.”

Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at mbritton@berkshireeagle.com or

413-496-6149.

Pittsfield Reporter

Meg Britton-Mehlisch is the Pittsfield reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, she previously worked at the Prior Lake American and its sister publications under the Southwest News Media umbrella in Savage, Minnesota.

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