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Greenfield loses its detox beds as program moves services to Springfield

The main entrance to Behavioral Health Network's facility at the former Lunt Silversmith property in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
Tom Relihan
Greenfield Recorder / recorder.com
The main entrance to Behavioral Health Network's facility at the former Lunt Silversmith property in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

Greenfield, Massachusetts, is losing its opioid detox beds.

Behavioral Health Network’s addiction center in Franklin County had room for people who need acute detox — which is the short period just after they stop using drugs — as well as more long-term treatment.

But CEO Steve Winn said demand for detox has gone down in Franklin County while it has increased in Hampden County with the closing of the MiraVista detox center in Holyoke.

At the same time, Winn said it was getting harder to find skilled staff for its detox programs in both Greenfield and Springfield.

“In a detox, you need basically medical staffing,” he said. “And for us to find that for two separate units has been really a challenge.”

So the organization has decided to increase the number of detox beds in its Springfield location and pay to transport the Franklin County patients there. (It has already done that for male patients over the past few years, since they divided the program by gender.)

“We're not expecting to say no to anybody,” he said. “We're expecting to be able to serve whoever needs it.”

The Greenfield location will continue to offer long-term treatment, including what’s known as “stabilization” services, medication-assisted treatment, and residential care.

“If you're from Franklin County and you come down here (to Springfield) for detox, when you're done with that, you'll be able to step down into the care back in your community,” he said.

Winn said he hadn’t heard any complaints or concerns about the change, although a Greenfield Facebook group included several comments by people lamenting the loss of detox beds locally.

Debra McLaughlin, who coordinates the Opioid Task Force in Franklin County, said the closing is disappointing but she understands reasons behind it — including staffing shortages and financial pressures from low MassHealth reimbursement.

“Naturally, it's hard for any community, especially a rural community like ours, to lose any capacity,” she said. “But organizations like Behavioral Health Network and many others have to run a sustainable organization. We need those organizations to exist.”

McLaughlin said health advocates had fought hard to bring detox beds to Franklin County, “because when the task force first formed in 2013, there weren't any. So I think we certainly want to continue to work with BHN and other partners to make sure that people who need these resources have access to them.”

She said medical advances and the expansion of addiction medication mean more people can detox at home — which is one reason Winn said there is less need for detox beds in Franklin County.

Karen Brown is a radio and print journalist who focuses on health care, mental health, children’s issues, and other topics about the human condition. She has been a full-time radio reporter for NEPM since 1998.