Recovery center celebrates 1 year, still seeking permanent home

  • Northampton Recovery Center interim director Lynn Ferro speaks Wednesday at a gathering at Edwards Church in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH ROBERTSON

  • Hampshire County House of Correction inmate Torin Traynor speaks Wednesday at a gathering to celebrate the Northampton Recovery Center’s first anniversary at Edwards Church in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH ROBERTSON

  • Hampshire County House of Correction inmate Da'Quan Kelly speaks Wednesday at a gathering to celebrate the Northampton Recovery Center’s first anniversary at Edwards Church in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH ROBERTSON

  • Hampshire County House of Correction inmate Dan McNair, right, presents the Rev. Michael McSherry, pastor of Edwards Church in Northampton, with a plaque made by inmates, at the church Wednesday. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH ROBERTSON

  • Hampshire County House of Correction inmate Da'Quan Kelly speaks Wednesday at a gathering to celebrate the Northampton Recovery Center’s first anniversary at Edwards Church in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH ROBERTSON

Staff Writer
Published: 10/25/2017 10:09:46 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Recovering addicts, government officials and community members gathered in Edwards Church Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the Northampton Recovery Center’s one-year anniversary as the search continues for a permanent home for the peer-driven drug abuse support group.

Inmates from the Hampshire County House of Correction shared testimonials with dozens packed in the small meeting room for the celebration.

“Having this door open to me upon my release is so important,” said Da’Quan Kelly, an inmate who has been visiting the center for four months. “It’s easing. It gets rid of a lot of anxiety and makes me feel like someone has my back when I get out. Nobody goes to war by themselves, you know.”

The recovery center is a support group for anyone actively in recovery and seeking recovery from drug addiction. Meetings are similar in style to Alcoholics Anonymous, with additional wellness activities, educational speakers, and lunch provided three times a week. The center partners with the Hampshire County House of Correction to allow inmates serving time for drug-related charges to spend time with the community.

“We come here so we can be ourselves and open up about our problems and look for help,” said Torin Traynor, an inmate, recovering heroin addict, and former U.S. Marine. “It’s important we feel part of the community and not behind walls. We want to be around normal people and feel welcome.”

After the presentation, inmates gifted two wooden plaques commemorating the event to the Rev. Michael McSherry of Edwards Church and Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan. Sullivan’s deputy Janice Healy accepted the gift on his behalf.

“We’re in the transformation business, and you’re doing it. God bless,” McSherry said as he accepted the plaque.

McSherry said the church is happy to accommodate the group while it can, and he hopes the program will be able to find a space larger than the church meeting room as it expands.

Moving forward

The Northampton Recovery Center is run through the district attorney’s office by interim director Lynn Ferro. Prior to opening the center, Ferro ran the district attorney’s Drug Abuse Task Force.

“DA Sullivan is very generous in loaning me to do this because there is no paid staff, there’s no funding, there’s nothing,” Ferro said. “Without me being paid by the DA to direct this, really it wouldn’t exist.”

Since the center opened on Oct. 27 of last year, Ferro has been working to build relationships within the community, provide resources for recovering addicts, and grow the recovery center, which draws approximately 200 visitors a month, she said.

Before she can find a new full-time director for the center, however, Ferro needs to find a permanent space and the funding for the program to expand.

“Just throwing it out there, we need space,” Ferro said in her closing remarks. “We need to expand, we need to expand our hours and what we can provide for people. For free, right now.”

She said organizers plan to apply for a grant in December that will allow them to leave the space in Edwards Church and hire a full-time director. Currently, the center relies on volunteers and donations from local businesses.

Getting started

In spring of 2016, the Hampshire Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) coalition, a county-wide organization of opioid education and overdose prevention programs, met with the district attorney and determined the area would benefit from an addiction recovery center. They modeled the center after the 14-year-old Greenfield Recovery Center, the first peer-driven recovery center in Massachusetts.

“This recovery center model has been shown to be an effective way for people in recovery,” said Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz. “The Greenfield center is one of the models for the state, so I think folks here have been trying to build similar infrastructure in Northampton.”

In September, Hampshire HOPE received a four-year, $1.7 million grant from the federal government for resources to help curb the nationwide opioid epidemic. With the grant, the Northampton Police Department formed the Drug Addiction Response Team, known as DART, to follow up on non-fatal overdose cases and offer support services to drug users. The city’s Health Department was also able to start the Drug Diversion and Treatment Program to connect drug users with recovery coaches and group homes.

“If it wasn’t for the DA’s office and the people at the jail, this probably wouldn’t have happened,” said inmate Billy Gardner after making his remarks. “I realize this is probably an ironic way to say thank you, but, thanks.”

Coming together

Last January, the recovery center started holding regularly scheduled events such as mindfulness training, yoga classes, educational speakers and writing exercises. Dori Digenti runs the Breathing Space yoga studio in Holyoke and is one of several volunteers who teach yoga at the center.

“That idea to bring mind and body together and develop mindfulness while you’re moving, it can be really helpful in the recovery process,” Digenti said. “It’s a good way to de-stress and release anxiety.”

Dan McNair is another inmate at the Hampshire County House of Correction who said yoga and the twice-weekly meetings have brought him out of his comfort zone, in a good way.

“I realized I could trust people,” McNair said. “I don’t have a lot of people I can trust, but I realized I can come here and speak about my problems and don’t worry about people judging me.”

Recovery center participants and volunteers appreciate the judgment-free zone they find in the center.

“We have people who come from business, white collar, blue collar, homeless, just about everywhere,” said Betsy Allen, a peer volunteer with the center. “It’s great because this is a judgment-free zone.”

Kelly compared the help he received at the center to a pit-stop in a NASCAR race.

“This place is my pit, and with it I’m going to be able to make it until the end of the race,” he said.

The Northampton Recovery Center meets in Edwards Church at 297 Main St. on Mondays and Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m. and Fridays from 4 to 6 p.m.




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