Mind and Body

BHDDH on schedule with its evictions of MAP, CCA

Senate committee approves Charest nomination by 8-0 vote

Photo by Richard Asinof

In a photo from 2020, Karen Rathbun of Community Care Alliance sands in front of a playground that had been constructed by volunteers from Blue Cross Blue Shield of RI. BHDDH plans to evict the agency from the state-owned building.

By Richard Asinof
Posted 2/6/23
BHDDH is moving ahead with its evictions of community agencies from state-owned buildings in Woonsocket and Providence.
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WOONSOCKET – The efforts by the R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals to evict the Community Care Alliance from its state-owned facility at 181 Cumberland St. in Woonsocket continues to move forward, with the tentative dates of Friday, Feb. 17, and Friday, Feb. 24, put on the calendar to show the property to people who want to participate in the bidding process.

The auction of the property will be conducted online, with the auction being advertised by the state for three weeks before the building is sold, according to sources.

In a separate development, there appears to be some resolution in the dispute between the city of Woonsocket, the Community Care Alliance, and CODAC, regarding the presence of the CODAC’s mobile outreach van, according to a letter sent from Benedict Lessing, Jr., the president and CEO of the agency, to ConvergenceRI and reporter Lynn Arditi from the Public’s Radio.

“I am writing on behalf of Community Care Alliance and CODAC regarding the Mobile Treatment Unit, which has been providing Opioid Treatment Services in Woonsocket,” Lessing wrote in an email sent on Tuesday, Jan. 31.

“As you know, Community Care Alliance and CODAC have been collaborating to increase the capacity and access of opioid treatment services in Woonsocket, particularly for vulnerable populations, Lessing continued. “Over the past few weeks, we have actively reached out to the Woonsocket City Council to communicate our concerns regarding the recent cease-and-desist order from the City of Woonsocket.”

The email continued: “Through multiple conversations and at City Council meetings, we have provided additional information, education and data to underscore opioid use in the city, overdoses and the need for additional services as provided by CODAC’s mobile unit. At present, CODAC is serving 48 individuals with an evolving caseload.”

Lessing voiced optimism that the conversations with city officials had helped ot resolve the conflict. “We believe there is widespread agreement among City Councilors and other residents as to the life-saving importance of the mobile unit which has been an important resource for unhoused Woonsocket residents, many of whom struggle with access to services,” Lessing wrote. “As such, we are optimistic that the mobile unit will remain in the city; that said, our respective legal counsels and the City Solicitor are continuing to confer in an effort determine the specifics as to how this will occur.”

Charest’s nomination approved by committee
On Tuesday, Jan. 31, the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services met to offer its advice and consent for the reappointment of Richard Charest to serve as BHDDH director. The committee voted 8-0 to move the nomination to the full Senate for a vote.

Ed Quinlan, the former executive at the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, and Interim Director Kevin Aucoin from the R.I. Department of Children Youth and Families, offered public testimony in support of Charest. Quinlan offered praise of Charest in his role as president and CEO of Landmark Medical Center; Aucoin spolek glowingly of Charest’s leadership qualities.

The brief 30-minute hearing proved to be somewhat perfunctory, with only the chair, Sen. Joshua Miller, asking questions of Charest. Miller sought out Charest’s opinions regarding the potential reorganization of BHDDH, including the creation of a separate hospital division, and the opportunity to unify behavioral health services – both of which were recommendations of a Senate legislation commission.

Miller also asked about the pending evictions being sought by BHDDH on MAP in Providence and CCA in Woonsocket, and whether there were opportunities for alternative resolutions. Charest chose not to address the eviction of CCA in Woonsocket; his answer regarding the MAP eviction did not seem to address the underlying issue: the failure of the state to make necessary repairs on state-owned buldings.

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