Downtown Northampton now boasts a new recovery center aimed at providing addicts and loved ones with emotional support.
The Northampton Recovery Center at Edwards Church, 297 Main St., which officially opened Monday, was a project that was roughly eight months in the making, said Lynn Ferro, Northwestern drug task force project coordinator.
The center is a collaborative effort by the Northampton’s Hampshire HOPE Coalition, the Northwestern district attorney’s office, the Recover Project in Greenfield and Hope for Holyoke. The group is intended to double as a resource for both addicts and their loved ones, according to the DA’s office.
Right now, the peer-driven support group is backed financially by donations from the DA’s office as well as another from an anonymous donor, Ferro said. Moving forward, organizers aim to secure funding from other donors as well as from various grants. Money would go toward program needs as well as a more permanent home.
“We’ll go wherever we can to try and get funding, but it would be great to have pilot data to demonstrate that this is a strong group, that we have good programs running,” she said. “I am (optimistic) because the momentum behind this has been tremendous. Anyone who’s heard about it has been very supportive and very happy to have us doing what we’re doing … I think as soon as funding becomes available for this kind of thing, we’ll be in good shape to receive it.”
Edwards Church offered space, free of charge, for the group to convene two to three afternoons a week, Ferro said, adding: “We’re still looking for permanent space — donations in the form of permanent space would also be very welcome. Because it’s really not our own space, and it’s not quite enough for (how) we hope to expand, (but) we are very grateful for this interim solution.”
Some of the support center’s inaugural participants, part of a group that is as many as two dozen strong, attended an open house Monday to mark the center’s official kickoff.
Among them was Doug Towse, 31, of Agawam, who said he was recently released from jail. Inmates generally learn of programs like the recovery center through their case workers at the jail, members said.
“A closed mouth doesn’t get fed,” Towse said before Monday’s meeting. “There’s a lot more people dealing with addiction out there than you realize … you can come here and actually see the people that are in recovery and are taking steps to better themselves.”
Towse said the weekly support sessions are typically organized by peers in the group, taking on unofficial leadership roles. Anyone who comes here, he added, has to be “willing to step up when the need is there.”
“That’s the whole point in this, that you feel welcome when you come in,” he said. “And once you’ve been here more than once, you know who people are here. That’s what we strive to do. We strive to make recovering addicts feel like this is a place where they can come and be safe and be themselves.”
Jamie Vermes, 35, was also among those who were participating at Monday’s program launch. Vermes is serving a sentence at the Hampshire Jail and House of Correction.
“What brings me here today is I’m trying to further my recovery as well as reach out to other recovering addicts and trying to make a change in my community,” he said. “I would tell [other addicts] to take charge of their lives and to make something of it.”
Vermes said he’s struggled with drug addiction since he was 18 years old and was dependent on cocaine and prescription pain killers.
“I definitely feel comfortable being here [and] being around people that want to make a change in the community,” he said. “And they all have the same goals in mind: to better our community and put an end to this opioid epidemic.”
Vermes emphasized the importance of keeping an open mind throughout the recovery process and talked about being open to change.
“You definitely have to keep an open mind,” he said, “because not everyone is going to make it, but as long as they try and give it a shot, there’s hope.”