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Great Barrington Rally Seeks to 'Smash the Stigma' of Addiction
By Sabrina Damms, iBerkshires Staff
05:05AM / Thursday, September 15, 2022
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The last Smash the Stigma attracted more than 300 participants.
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Rural Recovery Resources will be hosting a rally and event this Saturday to "Smash The Stigma" surrounding addiction and to shine a light on the services available to people. 
 
"The spirit of 'Smash the Stigma' is exactly what the title is, to address the stigma that's attached to substance use disorder, and to normalize, having conversations about that," said project manager Gary Pratt said.
 
"So stigma, perhaps the hardest thing that anybody that's dealing with a substance use disorder can overcome. It's pervasive in the society and forever. It's just something that's not talked about."
 
When hard topics like addiction are ignored, it's harder to get the services needed for recovery, he said.
 
Rural Recovery Resources says there have been 374 people in Berkshire County who died from an overdose between 2010 and 2021.
 
"It's just to lower that temperature and get people more comfortable and having that conversation, whether they're using, whether family members using, or a family member or friend has passed away, but from the disease," Pratt said. 
 
He said it is important to have that conversation to remove that stigma so people can get better and stop dying. 
 
Pratt himself has been in recovery for 14 years and is also a  licensed alcohol and drug counselor so he has seen the struggle through both perspectives. 
 
"I've seen it from both ends. I've seen it as a person with a substance-use disorder. I've seen it as a person treating a substance use disorder and quite frankly, [I'm] tired of friends and acquaintances dying from this disease," he said 
 
Pratt said he has watched people die because they were too ashamed to seek help. 
 
"I think it's very important to stress that people who use substances are just that. They are people, and they're not bad people. They're sick people that desperately want to get help sometimes," he said. 
 
"Because of the stigma, especially in Berkshire County, we haven't seen the same services that are offered in other parts of Massachusetts." 
 
He hopes to see more services in the area including an acute treatment center and detoxification that's publicly funded in South Berkshire County, a clinical stabilization services unit, a transitional support services unit, and multiple halfway houses. 
 
"Halfway houses, basically, are almost non-existent in Berkshire County, there's one in Pittsfield, and there's one in North Adams, they're state funded, there is not one in South Berkshire County," Pratt said. 
 
"I would love to see more services like that I would love to see a proliferation of recovery centers and in South Berkshire County and Berkshire County as a whole. Right now there's two of them, the one that we started here Great Barrington, and there's Living in Recovery in Pittsfield. ...
 
"My dreams is that when people seek treatment, when they seek recovery in whatever form they're looking for, they don't have to leave their home town."
 
During the event, there will be live music by the local band Fire Pit, a Biggins Diggins food truck, ice cream from SoCal Creamery, and a coffee stand with coffee donated by Fuel. There will also be lawn games and family activities.
 
During the event, there will be a resource fair to demonstrate the options available to addicts in Berkshire County. 
 
At noon, participants can march down Main Street to Town Hall, where they will hold a standout until 1:30.
 
The event held in 2019 attracted about 300 people; Saturday's is the first since the pandemic.
 
The South County Recovery Center established Rural Recovery Resources through a grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration that will end this year. 
 
The center plans to reapply for the grant but also is working on other funding sources, including local fundraisers and accepts donations.
 
It has six funded partners and also a broad consortium of partners across Southern Berkshire including the Great Barrington Police Department, the Brien Center, and Spectrum Health Services. 
 
"That's one of the things that we've been doing for years, we've been working on building warm handoffs with agencies so we have those personal relationships with people at different agencies," Pratt said. 
 
"So we don't just hand somebody a pamphlet and be like, 'you need a counselor here, call the Brien Center, see what they can do.' We call the Brien Center with people, we speak to people that we know, and we walk people through the process."
 
More information on Rural Recovery Resources and the event here
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