Help available to addicts seeking recovery, though space sometimes limited in detox and residential drug treatment programs

Last modified: Thursday, February 06, 2014

NORTHAMPTON — In the wake of the death of a 35-year-old Northampton man who apparently struggled to find a residential drug treatment program near the end of his life, local program directors urged people with addiction problems or their relatives to contact them and start the recovery process before it’s too late.

Kyle W. Amidon, who was found dead Saturday on the Smith College campus, was in and out of drug treatment centers but could not find an open residential program, according to his longtime companion.

Officials at drug treatment programs said while their beds are sometimes full, there is a safety net of other available services to help recovering addicts — if they take the first step.

“Call us,” said Dr. Robert Roose, chief medical officer of addiction services for the Sisters of Providence Health System, which runs the Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke.

The hospital has a 30-bed detoxification unit for addicts as well as outpatient services, from daily counseling and aftercare planning to methadone detoxification, to help recovering addicts avoid using.

Anyone who has a substance abuse problem or who knows a loved one struggling with addiction should call the hospital at 536-5111, Roose said, or go to any of a number of social service agencies and hospitals that can help them. Those include ServiceNet, Cooley Dickinson Hospital, and Clinical and Support Options, all in Northampton; and Baystate Medical Center, Phoenix House, and the Behavioral Health Network in Springfield.

Susan Stubbs, executive director of ServiceNet, which runs the Interfaith Emergency Shelter in Northampton where Amidon had stayed earlier this year, said staff members work to get people who use the shelter the help they need, including referring them to drug treatment centers and residential programs. “But we can’t control whether there are spaces” available at those programs, she said.

Anyone who wants a first-time appointment for help with drug addiction may call ServiceNet at 877-984-6855.

Detoxification facilities where patients have brief stays while going through drug withdrawal are available at Providence Behavioral Health and the Carlson Recovery Center in Springfield, Roose said. They have 30 beds each.

Roose said the Holyoke hospital’s detox unit is generally “pretty full” and the average stay is five to seven days. “That’s the entry point for a lot of people,” he said.

Gus Ramirez, program director at the Carlson Recovery Center, said the average stay there is three to six days. Carlson’s phone number is 413-794-3971.

When patients are done with detoxification at both centers, social workers will discuss with them the resources available to prevent relapsing into drug use. Those include attending daily counseling or group sessions or moving to a long-term treatment facility, and at the Holyoke hospital, medicating the withdrawal symptoms with methadone.

Long-term care

Long-term treatment programs in the area include Hairston House, a home run by Cooley Dickinson Hospital on Graves Avenue in Northampton; the Beacon House for Men and the Beacon House for Women in Greenfield, and the Orange Recovery House in Orange, all run by ServiceNet; Hope Center, Opportunity House and My Sister’s Place in Springfield, all with 30 beds each and run by the Behavioral Health Network; and the Phoenix House in Springfield, run by a private nonprofit.

Roose said finding a bed at a long-term facility “can be difficult ... but generally, most people are placed who want to be placed.”

Ramirez said that at the three Behavioral Health Network houses, capacity hits 100 percent about once a month during the winter, but is usually around 80 percent during the warmer seasons. If they are at capacity, the longest someone would have to wait for a bed would be two or three days, he said. “No one should be waiting long,” Ramirez added.

Despite the available services, Roose said, some people are still not able to get the treatment they need.

“I think the system can do a better job. As a community, we need to be doing a better job,” he said. “There is an incredible and unfortunately unmet need for treatment to opiate addiction.”

For example, Roose said there is a lack of programs that offer methadone or other medications to discourage relapsing into opiate drug use, including heroin. That can increase the risk someone might overdose, he said, because addicts who relapse after being in recovery have a decreased tolerance to heroin.

Roose said the dramatic national increase in heroin addiction in the last decade is frightening. “It’s now the second most commonly used drug after marijuana and overdosing is now the leading cause of accidental death. It surpassed motor vehicle accidents in the last few years,” he said.

Nevertheless, Ramirez said “we have the resources and the ability to help” people with substance abuse problems.

“But you have to be committed to it,” he said of recovery. “You have to admit first that you are an addict, and some people don’t reach that point until they’re out on the streets.”

Rebecca Everett can be reached at


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