North Adams Community Discusses Substance Abuse

Nov 9, 2012

In North Adams a public forum was held to address the growing problem of prescription drug and heroin addiction in the Berkshires. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard attended the meeting and filed a report.

At the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition’s open forum this morning, members of the local community including officials from the City of North Adams, business owners, area residents, social services, and law enforcement, came together to discuss the dangerous issue of prescription drug and heroin addiction.

Detective John LeClair of the North Adams Police Department and member of the Berkshire County Drug Task Force can only describe the addiction problem facing Berkshire County as one thing:

LeClair said that the growing heroin and prescription drug medication abuse problem is attributed to the over-prescription of opioid pain killers.

LeClair said that because those prescribed opioids, stimulants, and depressants may trust the medication, they can become addicted very quickly and very easily.

LeClair said that once addicted, users will then shift to heroin from prescription meds, because street drugs are cheaper.

Lois Daunis of the Northern Berkshire Community Council said at the meeting that for  every resident in Berkshire County, there are 32 doses of addictive prescriptions available.

Brandy Whipple, a recovering addict and North Adams resident attended the meeting. She said that a lack of easily accessible and long-term care in the Berkshires is a major hurdle for those seeking treatment. She cited the lack of public transportation, particularly in the Northern Berkshires, as a contributing problem.

At the meeting, attendees further talked about treatment options, where people can get help, brainstormed ways on how the community can heal itself, and aired their concerns.

Al Bashevkin, Executive Director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coaltion said that the meeting was one of the highest attending monthly forums for the Coalition. 118 people from the local community attended. Bashevkin said that even he was unaware of the growing drug addiction problem in the Berkshires until recently.

Bashevkin added that he hopes the discussion will turn to action.

More information:

Northern Berkshire Community Coalition:

The Brien Center – Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services of the Berkshires:

McGee Substance Abuse Unit at Berkshire Medical Center: