By ANITA FRITZ
Friday, December 18, 2015
(Published in print: Saturday, December 19, 2015)
GREENFIELD — Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday visited the future drug detox and rehab center that will open in February in an old factory building off Federal Street, and told town, law enforcement and social service leaders that the addiction problem in Franklin County and across the state needs “everyone’s full attention.”
Baker said in an interview after his tour of the former Lunt Silversmith property that his administration has already invested between $30 million and $40 million in treatment and recovery programs since he took office early this year and plans to invest more.
He said the 64-bed facility, which will be run by Springfield-based nonprofit Behavioral Health Network, is another step in the right direction for the community, region and state.
Baker said it is great that providers are interested in their communities and the drug problems that exist across the state. He said it’s time to treat drug addiction more as a disease and less as a crime.
“We need facilities like this one,” said Baker. “People who are addicted and their families feel alone, isolated. They feel kicked to the curb and it’s hard to fight their way out.”
Baker said facilities like Behavioral Health Network’s will change that eventually.
“We have a lot of work to do, though,” he said. “We won’t get there if we don’t do these things.”
Baker told leaders that all of their voices are important in fighting addiction.
“You have to speak out,” he said. “We need a sense of urgency and, some good, old-fashioned commitment.”
Baker said people who weren’t paying attention before are now. He said by not opening detox and rehab centers, the state will miss important opportunities.
“This is a win, win, win situation,” said Baker.
The governor said Greenfield will have one of its older, historic buildings rehabilitated and put back on the tax rolls — Springfield developer 401 Liberty Street LLC owns the building and will lease the space to Behavioral Health Network.
Baker said the state desperately needs as many recovery beds as possible, so this will add another 64 to the almost 700 it has now. He said it is also a win for addicts, who won’t have to travel east or to Springfield for treatment.
He said he is pleased to see that not only is his administration on board, but also law enforcers, health care providers and city and town officials across Massachusetts.
“It we don’t interrupt the status quo (with places like BHN’s detox and rehabilitation center), we won’t interrupt the status quo,” said Baker.
Mayor William Martin, who is away and did not meet with Baker during his short visit to Greenfield, signed a contract with 401 Liberty Street earlier this year. The developer will redevelop the portion of the property owned by the town, which includes the old factory and former office building. Town Council approved a 10-year contract in a unanimous vote.
Once the property is cleaned up completely — the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection is still working to do so — 401 Liberty Street will buy it. Until then, it will pay $2,500 a month in rent to the town. Rent will increase by 5 percent a year until the property is bought.
The addiction treatment program will include a substance abuse rehabilitation facility with 64 beds — 32 for acute treatment, or detox, and 32 for clinical stabilization, or rehab.
It isn’t yet clear what the developer will do with the rest of the property, but it has agreed to assist the federal Environmental Protection Agency with its cleanup, and when that is complete, will purchase it within 60 days.
The town also acquired the ball fields behind the old factory for $660,000, but it didn’t cost anything for Greenfield to take ownership of the contaminated factory, because a U.S. Bankruptcy Court conveyed the deed in lieu of foreclosure.
The town had planned to take the property for back taxes — it had a tax lien on the vacant and decaying property, said Martin.
Members of the state opioid task force were also in attendance on Friday. The task force’s recommendations to the governor have included expanding state-funded residential treatment programs for underserved populations and geographically underserved areas such as Franklin County.