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The Check-Up: Neal to host town hall with area top doc

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THE NUMBERS: Coronavirus cases in the Berkshire County rose to 162 as of Monday, a daily increase of 11. State health officials reported eight more deaths, though none in the Berkshires, for a total of 56. Massachusetts as a whole saw 797 new cases, for a total to date of 5,752.

Almost 43,000 people have been tested in Massachusetts, up from 39,066 Sunday.

POWERING ON: The utility Eversource is telling its small business customers they have more time to pay electricity bills.

Normally, the utility allows business customers to make payment plans over three months. Because of closings due to the coronavirus, Eversource will now let business owners pay their power bills, at no interest, over 12 months, with the first payment due June 1.

Eversource, like other utilities, will not disconnect customer service because of nonpayment.

For now, utility workers are focused on keeping the system operating properly, the company said. But some operations are on hold.

"We are rescheduling all planned outages, as well as routine non-outage, service-related work inside residence or business," the company said in a message to customers. "We are also reducing noncritical field work ... that requires access to homes or businesses."

DIAL-UP ON COVID-19: U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal will join a local medical expert Tuesday on a public conference call to discuss recent actions in Congress and to offer information on steps being taken against the coronavirus in Berkshire County. Anyone can listen in starting at 12:30 p.m. To take part, call 866-383-2731.

Joining Neal will be Dr. James Lederer, chief medical and chief quality officer for Berkshire Health Systems.

HELP IN HARD TIMES: People in recovery who rely on meetings face more challenges these days, given prohibitions on even small gatherings.

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But there are options.

According to the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, in-person Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are still being held in North Adams at the First Baptist Church at noon Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and at noon Wednesdays and Fridays at All Saints Episcopal Church.

Narcotics Anonymous meetings continue Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays at All Saints Episcopal Church at 7 p.m.

Susan Cross, the coalition's prevention and recovery program associate, said changes in the availability of group meetings comes at a time when people feel stressed and isolated because of layoffs and fears of contagion. Cross said COVID-19 not only threatens physical health, "it also weakens the recovery that many have worked so hard to attain."

She said research has linked anxiety, depression and stress, including financial worries, with increased drug and alcohol use.

Those supervising the AA and NA meetings break groups into separate rooms if more than 10 people are present, Cross said. "They're taking all of those precautions and telling people not to come if they're not feeling well," she said.

On top of that, the coalition continues to take calls from people in crisis. Staff members are answering the phone weekdays. People can call 413-663-7588 for information on programs and services, Cross said. "Or just to say hello. We're here for that reason."

Speaking of phone calls, that's how some are choosing to access help in recovery. The Beacon Recovery Community Center holds a call-in meeting Mondays through Fridays from 2 to 3 p.m. The session, called an "All Recovery Meeting," is nondenominational and not affiliated with 12-step programs, Cross said. To attend by phone, call any of the following numbers — 646-558 8656, 312-626 6799 or 301-715-8592 — and enter a meeting ID of 822 527 847.

A list of online recovery meetings can be obtained from the coalition by calling 413-663-7588 or emailing scross@nbccoalition.org. For information about online Alanon meetings, email williamstownma.alanon@gmail.com.

To contribute news to The Check-Up, please email lparnass@berkshireeagle.com or call 413-588-8341.


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