18 Degrees starting new program to reach at-risk youths in North Adams

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NORTH ADAMS — There's a new player in town to help young people at risk.

18 Degrees, formerly Berkshire Children and Families, is launching "West Main Connection," an expansion of the 18 Degrees Safe and Successful Youth Initiative.

Community members are invited to meet the staff and learn more about the program at an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at the new West Main Connection offices, 6 West Main St. in North Adams.

With funding provided through the Commonwealth's Executive Office of Health and Human Services, West Main Connection will provide services that engage people ages 17 to 24 who are at the highest risk of being involved in criminal and/or gang activity.

The program employs street outreach, case management and mental health services — provided in partnership with the Brien Center — to support young people and connect them to community resources.

The goal of the program is to promote positive youth development and divert young people from activities that might lead them deeper into the criminal justice system.

"I'm extremely grateful for the investment 18 Degrees and the Commonwealth are making in North Adams, in our young people, and in the safety and security of our community," said North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard. "We know that for many young people, access to focused intervention, diversion support, case management, and mental health services can help them to be successful. Our shared hope is that these supports empower them to develop the skills they need to succeed in their education and in the workforce, and to avoid further steps down the path toward criminal activity and involvement in the criminal justice system."

18 Degrees operates a similar program, Pittsfield Community Connection, in Pittsfield, which is proving successful in matching young people with caring adults, supporting them through training and educational services, and identifying possible career paths.

To register for the open house, email info@18degreesma.org or call 413-448-8281, ext. 219.

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