Article

METH PETITION — WHAT’S THE REAL STORY? HAS THE PLANET FOUND THE SMOKING GUN? DOCUMENTS ESTABLISH MOTIVE FOR BHS TO FIGHT FOR ITS $$TRANGLEHOLD ON LOCAL HEALTHCARE … plus … PT. 2 OF THE PLANET’s EXCLUSIVE EXAM OF ANNUAL SCHOOL REPORT

By DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, DEC. 1, 2011) — Welcome to December, final month of the year and the last month in office for the city of Pittsfield’s current lame-duck government. The new government will have to decide on the issue of regulating future meth and suboxone clinics in Pittsfield based on a petition introduced by returning Ward 6 councilor, my right honorable good friend John Krol.

Some Interesting Developments and What We Know, Factually …

There are been some interesting developments in this story, to say the least.

We now know that there already IS a full-time, 24/7 meth treatment center operating in Pittsfield. Thanks to great work by several of THE PLANET’s commentators, members of our Secret Squadron, and Al Gore’s Internet, we also know that said clinic is run  Berkshire Health Systems’ subsidiary, Berkshire Medical Center/McGee. There’s a lot of gold in them than hills, and given the fact that BHS has been heavy-handed in the past with competitive medical operations threatening its stranglehold over the health care dollar, it’s not a stretch to see the same thing at work now and here, in the meth case.

We also know that the attorney for the city of Pittsfield, the same city fighting in court to keep Spectrum Health Services from opening a competing clinic in Pittsfield, is a trustee and officer of, you guessed it, Berkshire Health Systems. We also know that the city councilor who introduced the petition to keep future meth competition out of the downtown altogether is a former employee of a — you guessed it again — Berkshire Health Systems subsidiary Berkshire Healthcare Systems.

A Petition of Merit Against  Less Than Full Disclosure

In the abstract, Krol’s petition has the merit of refinement. He proposes that the city define for zoning purposes what these clinics are, what services they provide, and where they can be located. In the abstract, THE PLANET agrees that local zoning laws should have precedence over any outside determinant here.

This is not a problem in the abstract, of course, and all other factors cannot be considered equal. The establishment of highly profitable meth clinics is a problem as real as a junkie shooting up. It’s as real as life and death. Literally.

Thus, considering the other factors in play, we can’t see a logical reason why the application of Spectrum should be denied. If fact, the city of Pittsfield may be skating on thin legal ice in fighting the application. Thanks to great work by readers of this website, it’s clear that methadone maintenance treatment is done in Pittsfield. It’s also clear that it’s being done downtown. So what, then, is the legal basis for trying to regulate Spectrum through the courts of stopping any other company via petition to zoning legislation?

Follow the money.

Is all of this being done to protect Berkshire Health Systems’ stranglehold over the existing methadone treatment business in Pittsfield? Given the extensive and shocking amount of drug use and abuse, one can only assume the business to be lucrative in the extreme.

Putting Pieces of the Puzzle Together Begins to Form a Picture

Berkshire Health Systems Inc. filed Form 990 on Aug. 15, 2011 for the tax year beginning on Oct.1, 2009 and ending on Sept. 30, 2010. This is a public document available for viewing. We thank correspondent Ray Ovac for diggin this out. Here’s the link: http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2010/042/442/2010-042442944-076d7c95-9.pdf

There are many interesting facts revealed in this document. For today, let us establish, once and for all, the link between Berkshire Health Systems (BHS) and one of its multitude of affiliates, Berkshire Healthcare Systems (BHCS). Page 24 of the document (Schedule J) lists BHCS as one of 26 BHS affiliates that pay compensation to CEO David Phelps. As we saw yesterday, Phelps is listed at the head of BCHS and its parent, BHS. Thus vanishes any protestations that the two are not closely related.

From Dee, also a commentator to THE PLANET, we received the following two links:

http://www.allaboutsuboxone.com/?st=MA&ct=Pittsfield

and

http://www.allaboutsuboxone.com/find-methadone-treatment-clinics/?st=MA

The first link shows that there are 10 physicians providing methadone maintenance treatment. Clearly, then, it’s not as though this isn’t being done. In other words, if the presence of this service means that Pittsfield has already been despoiled, councilor Krol’s petition cannot restore the virginity of the city’s long-lost flower.

The second link show methadone clinics operating in Massachusetts. Fifty-two such clinics operate in the state. A closer look reveals that Spectrum Health Systems Inc. operates five of them (Southbridge, Milford, Worcester [2], and Framingham). There is one methadone treatment clinic currently operating in Pittsfield. Care to guess what company owns it and runs it? Berkshire Medical Center at its McGee Recovery Unit. BMC is wholly owned by Berkshire Health Systems.

This information clearly shows that Spectrum and BHS are already in competition in the methadone treatment business.

Is it a stretch to conclude that Spectrum’s pre-emptive strike in Pittsfield, thus threatening the BHS monopoly, prompted BHS into action? THE PLANET doesn’t think so.

True, the city of Pittsfield, not BHS, is currently engaging Spectrum in federal court. True, the petition to bar the door to any more such clinics was filed by a city councilor, not BHS.

Any List that Has Angelo Stracuzzi on It …

Keep in mind, though, that BHS, an empire headed by David Phelps, lists such people as Angelo Stracuzzi, Tucker Welch, Ann Trabulsi, Marilyn Sperling (Greylock Federal Credit Union), Paul Raverta (outgoing BCC president), Brian Fairbank, Rich Dohoney (city attorney), Kit Dobelle (wife of Evan), and Alf Barbalunga (school committee member) as trustees, directors, and/or officers.

Hardly a disinterested group, wouldn’t you say? A bit connected, in other words, and, we could reasonably conclude, eager to activate agents to act on behalf of BHS to Preserve the BHS Union (and keep its monopoly on the healthcare dollars in Berkshire County).

One can also conclude that taking action that would prevent a competitor from doing business in Pittsfield would win the favor of these Veddy Important People. We could imagine, for instance, these VIPs (translate GOBs) being Veddy Happy if the city of Pittsfield were to try to tie Spectrum up in court and if a city councilor were to file a petition to keep other competitors Ta Heck out of Pittsfield. These city officers would earn some tidy extra credit from the Veddy Important BHS.

We  can say, FACTUALLY, that the attorney for the city of Pittsfield — Mr. Dohoney — is a BHS trustee and officer. We can also say that the city councilor who introduced the petition to block methadone clinics formerly worked for a BHS company. This is either evidence of a causal relationship or else we have unearthed a mind-boggling coincidence that would astound even the Mayans.

Speaking of Which …

When we initially reported Krol’s professional connection with Berkshire Health Systems (BHS), the 800-pound gorilla when it comes to local power and politics, we mistakenly reported that Krol was currently employed by BHS.

We ate that one, took our lumps, and licked the egg on our face, because we know better. Krol directs Sweetwood of Lenox, the long-term care facility. Sweetwood is a competitor of BHS and its subsidiary. There’s no question, however, that Krol formerly worked at BHCS, which lists BHS David Phelps as its president.

True, BHCS and BHS are not the same. The latter owns the former. Krol is correct to point that out. We also believe his claim that he had virtually no contact with Phelps at his BHCS job.

It stands to reason, though, that Krol knew of Phelps’ importance in the grand scheme of the healthcare picture in Pittsfield and Berkshire County. At the minimum, his action in filing the petition creates a perception of possible conflict of interest. In politics, perception often trumps reality.

We also wonder about the ethics of the city attorney, Mr. Dohoney, representing the city while also being a trustee and an officer of BHS.

Two days ago, in response to our original posting getting his current employment wrong, a mistake we instantly corrected, Krol sent the following e-mail. We had briefly posted it on THE PLANET then took it down after we made the factual corrections to our story. We are re-publishing the e-mail here at the request of  several of our readers:

Krol’s e-mail to THE PLANET, from Two Days Ago

Here is the e-mail Krol sent to THE PLANET two days ago. Parts of THE PLANET’s original post is in black. Krol’s annotations are in blue. Judge for yourself the degree to which he was or was not being fully transparent:

· Krol’s petition has the following explanatory statement, after he makes his case why it would not be good for the city’s “Downtown business District” and its “Arts Overlay District”: “This area does not (Krol’s boldface and italics) include Berkshire Medical Center, which I believe is a more suitable location for the controlled and patient-centered facility for a methadone … clinic.” This, critics point out, is a troubling statement. Nowhere in the petition or the explanatory letter does Krol disclose that he is an employee of Berkshire Health Systems (No, you’re right, I don’t think I need to disclose things that are not true. I am not, and never was an employee of Berkshire Health Systems). This taints the petition (wrong again), and it gives credence to the thought of some that BHS plans to break into the methadone treatment itself and is employing one of its workers, who happens to be a city councilor (untrue, I am not one of their ‘workers’), to front the battle (further, I also have had no contact with anyone at BHS on this issue. I have spoken to the director of the Brien Center who wanted to learn more about my petition after I had filed it publicly).

· Why did Mayor Jimmy Ruberto refuse to even meet with executives from Spectrum Health Systems? Federal law prohibits the banning of methadone clinics. Did Ruberto’s behavior and Krol lack of full disclosure amount to a ban (again, nothing to disclose since I am not an employee of BHS, further I had no involvement in discussions with the Mayor and Spectrum, or lack thereof)? If so, are there legal implications (No)?

A Couple of Key Questions for Councilor Krol

Those are the PROS and CONS. THE PLANET finds an argument on both sides, and we lean toward “We’re not yet convinced” — though we will keep an open mind.

We find troubling, though, Krol’s lack of disclosure in his petition (lack of disclosing what? That you have, once again, printed something that is wildly inaccurate without even giving an opportunity for me to comment prior to your posting of a completely untrue statement). The question is, given Krol’s professional relationship with Berkshire Health Systems (My relationship with Berkshire Health Systems is no more than an average citizen of Pittsfield who may need the services of our local hospital), can he even be involved in this debate as Ward 6 councilor (yes, I can), or must he recuse himself (no, that is not needed)? Has he sought an opinion from the state (again, not needed)? He works for Berkshire Health Systems (no, I do not work for BHS), a competitor of Spectrum Health Systems (I don’t know if this is the case). He must answer to the appearance that he’s introduced his measure on behalf of his employers (No, I don’t have to answer to poorly researched posts).

I stopped counting. Too many. Get real, Dan.

Judge for yourself, readers. Who needs to get real?

So Quintessentially Pittsfield, Isn’t It?

The saga of the meth clinic is, in its melodrama and incestuous tributaries, a quintessential Pittsfield story. The seemingly straightforward move by a company looking to do business where it sees a market opportunity turns out to be a maze whose aisles are made of political quicksand stocked with powerful blue gills and pickeral … swimmers, because something awfully fishy seems to be under way.

And no, the Boring Broadsheet will tell you none of this. They ran a fluff piece at the top of Page 1 on Krol’s anti-meth-competition petition. They didn’t give you THE REAL STORY. That’s why they are losing readers faster than a Bob Feller fastball and why THE PLANET continues to gain readers at the same Rapid Robert pace.

—————————————————————————

THE PLANET’s Look at the Annual School Report, Part II

THE PLANET continues, now, with our examination of the 76-page annual school report for the 2009-2010 school year. It’s the most recent we could find. The report is dated Jan. 1, 2011.

WHAT WERE THE RESULTS? — On p. 15, the report notes that the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) “conducted a comprehensive review” of the district. As of the report’s composition date, the results of the visit, the report says, were not yet received by the district. This part of the report, lacking actual results, goes on to describe the process by which the DESE conducts its reviews.

Comment — THE PLANET tried to find the results of the DESE review but failed. We either overlooked it online or it is not posted. If it is online, it doesn’t seem to be in a handy, that is, accessible, place. We ask: What were the results of the review?

IT’S A GOAL! — The report then lists district goals for five areas: literacy; curriculum, instruction, and assessment; school climate; safety and emergency planning; and family, school, and community connections. The first promises students who know how to read, write, speak, and think “across all content areas” including “mathematical literacy.”

Comment — This goal has not been achieved, and nowhere close. THE PLANET goes by two sets of evidence: colleges and businesses. Colleges say that, increasingly, students coming out of the district require remedial work in reading, writing, and math so that they can compete in entry-level college courses. Businesses uniformly report of the lax work practices, skills, worth ethics, and social abilities of recent grads. Too often, they want the money, but they don’t want to work on anyone’s terms but their own. America cannot successfully compete in the global marketplace with this new wave of “worker bees.”

WHERE’s THE MONEY? — On p. 18, the report gets into finances. It says “developing the FY ’11 budget was challenging in light of ongoing financial constraints.” The report mentions the specter of “continuous reductions” in state aid. The “Operating Budget Analysis” informs readers that the district needed $53,138,477 but was allocated $52,588,477.

Comment — First, it’s interesting how a department that consumes either $82 million of $89 million of a $120 million city budget (2/3 or 3/4) depending on how you count it has to keep repeating its money woes. Second, we don’t read of the additional $30 million that goes to the schools for health care costs, maintenance, and bussing. This money gets buried on the city side of the budget — what THE PLANET calls “the $30 million hoax.” In the name of transparency, THE PLANET suggests that in all future references to the school department budget, this additional $30 million be included. The hoax must stop.

Speaking of stopping, let’s do that now. We shall present part three of our school report analysis tomorrow on THE PLANET.

——————————————————————-

WE HEAD OUT NOW TO GREENER PASTURES, EXPLORING THE UNCHARTERED WASTES OF COST-SAVING MEASURES, GRINNING ALL THE WAY.

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

47 Responses to “METH PETITION — WHAT’S THE REAL STORY? HAS THE PLANET FOUND THE SMOKING GUN? DOCUMENTS ESTABLISH MOTIVE FOR BHS TO FIGHT FOR ITS $$TRANGLEHOLD ON LOCAL HEALTHCARE … plus … PT. 2 OF THE PLANET’s EXCLUSIVE EXAM OF ANNUAL SCHOOL REPORT”

  1. Hilly Billy 2 in Ward 4
    December 1, 2011 at 9:15 am #

    In The Esteemed Councilor Krol’s email response to Dan Valenti a few days ago, ask yourself this, Is he using full disclosure, telling the truth, being coy, or being outright deceptive with his answers? Decide for yourself. But the answer to this question could tell us all if there is smoke and mirrors going on with Krol’s petition against Spectrum.

    Councilor Krol:
    “No, you’re right, I don’t think I need to disclose things that are not true. I am not, and never was an employee of Berkshire Health Systems” This taints the petition (“wrong again”)
    Hilly Billy:
    Why not correct right here Councilor Krol, that you were an employee of BHCS and be done with the whole thing?
    Krol:
    “(untrue, I am not one of their ‘workers’), to front the battle (further, I also have had no contact with anyone at BHS on this issue. I have spoken to the director of the Brien Center who wanted to learn more about my petition after I had filed it publicly”
    Hilly:
    So it never came up with Dave Phelps , Gene D. and other Major local Dem operatives on BHS BOD that a major competitor might be squeezing in on his turf at one of your stuff wine and cheese tastings? c’mon man!
    Krol:
    “(again, nothing to disclose since I am not an employee of BHS, further I had no involvement in discussions with the Mayor and Spectrum, or lack thereof)? If so, are there legal implications (No)?”
    Hilly:
    Are you saying Mayor Ruberto didn’t speak to the Ward Councilor where Spectrum was looking to locate their business AT ALL about the idea? C’mon Man!
    Krol:
    (lack of disclosing what? That you have, once again, printed something that is wildly inaccurate without even giving an opportunity for me to comment prior to your posting of a completely untrue statement). The question is, given Krol’s professional relationship with Berkshire Health Systems (My relationship with Berkshire Health Systems is no more than an average citizen of Pittsfield who may need the services of our local hospital), can he even be involved in this debate as Ward 6 councilor (yes, I can), or must he recuse himself (no, that is not needed)? Has he sought an opinion from the state (again, not needed)? He works for Berkshire Health Systems (no, I do not work for BHS), a competitor of Spectrum Health Systems (I don’t know if this is the case). He must answer to the appearance that he’s introduced his measure on behalf of his employers (No, I don’t have to answer to poorly researched posts).
    Hilly:
    Wildly Inaccurate Councilor? Hardly…You have the same relationship with BHS as an “average citizen of Pittsfield”, who you kidding?

    The fact that Krol’s answers to THE PLANET’s original post were incomplete at best, leads this Hill Billy to think there is Gold in them thar Hills Dan…Keep Diggin

    PS Dan..Sweetwood is in WIliamstown

  2. Jim Gleason
    December 1, 2011 at 9:28 am #

    In light of the relevations at PennSt. and Syracuse University recently, why hasn’t anyone talked about the cover up of the case involving Angelo Stracuzzi, former GFCU CEO. There are people in Pittsfild who knew of the charges against him, including those still employed at the CU in high up positions, including a VP. I think those who covered this up should be held just as accountable as the perpetrator, like is happening at Penn St. The board members who covered this from members should be investigated and fired if guilty of keeping info from members and the public at large. What part did our current mayor have in this cover up, seeing his 2009 mayoral campaign was run for the most part from Greylock? We need answers to a local tragedy and to see if this happened more times than reported, even here locally.

    • dusty
      December 2, 2011 at 1:31 am #

      …kind of says a lot about the DAs office huh Jim?

  3. Steven Colbert
    December 1, 2011 at 10:37 am #

    Time for some truthiness amidst this nonsense. The McGee Substance Abuse Center is not a methadone clinic. It’s a 24-hour inpatient substance abuse program and does not distribute methadone on an outpatient basis the way a clinic does. Patients who receive methadone at McGee do so as part of a comprehensive inpatient program that also includes a wide range of other support services, both in the area of mental health and medically. BMC does not have an outpatient methadone clinic. Also, if you did your homework and reviewed how poorly mental health services are reimbursed by both Medicare and Medicaid, you would easily see that there is no “gold in them thar hills.” Not for a hospital, at least. If you’re Spectrum and you operate an outpatient clinic that’s only open three or four hours a day, which these type of clinics are, you make some money. BMC’s McGee Unit functions 24/7/365 and treats patients with ALL substance abuse issues. Enough of the conspiracy theories. If BHS really thought it could make a ton of money with a methadone clinic, don’t you think they would have opened one years ago? The McGee Unit has been around for decades. Please Dan, you’re better than this, and smarter.

    • Joe Pinhead
      December 1, 2011 at 6:45 pm #

      Steven Colbert:
      Please tell us what the average cost is for all services for an addicted client via the CMS route? Of course keep in mind BHS is reimbursed full payment based upon a 72.5% public insured rate. Meaning a full 72 % of the people treated at BHS is either what’s referred to in the trade as low pay or no pay.
      Please calculate entry to exit, Treatment, Therapy, Testing and Tabulation. I am not questioning the wisdom of the investment I am curious of the total cost of the average addict from mean to clean. I also wish to hear about the cost of ongoing support services. I am not going to say that there is millions to be made, however I don’t think it is a losing proposition either. What’s coming down the pike from the feds in regards to both mental health and addiction treatment?
      I’m sure that you are versed in the new technologies, but others may not be so I will put it into layman’s terms here but please follow the links and see for yourselves.
      Positron Emission Tomography or PET scanning along with functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging F (MRI) is changing the whole game and these technologies are not cheap.
      Now I need to decide which path to go down, do we go down a techie path or the bean path? Both avenues could have volumes written both pro and con.
      I won’t bore you with too much detail tech talk but essentially it works like this: (attention not my thoughts but the best description I have seen to date.) the seminar in which I seen this was at the Radiological Society of North America in Chicago last year. Ok visualize that old TV commercial with the 2 eggs in a frying pan you know the “this is your brain on drugs” Replace those 2 eggs with 2 56 inch flat screen monitors with 3d capability with the image of your brain displayed on each. That is your brain under normal resting conditions while you are listening to soothing music. We can view the parts of your brain and its activity or lack thereof, now you hear loud rock music, and jack hammers and see strobe lights flashing etc. This is an example of a F(MRI) we can see the reaction of each of the parts of your brain to each of the activities and we can predict your behavior based upon that.
      Or in the case of an addict we can correlate the regional effects of substance abuse on your brain. Example: the amygdala might be more excited and the prefrontal cortex is under-activated and lower-functioning with resultant problems. That’s for you brain surgeons out there. And this just touches upon the wave of stuff coming. Please follow the links to learn more.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_magnetic_resonance_imaging
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positron_emission_tomography#Neuroimaging

      As I am certain these are not cheap pieces of capital equipment for a health system to obtain as well as place. Special installation requirements, and the ability to maintain a certain environment etc.
      SO to help insure that the right equipment is in the right places to serve the needs of the community the State is there to protect us, We the people. As such they have a process known as a CON no not con, but a C O N or Certificate Of Need.
      http://www.ncsl.org/IssuesResearch/Health/CONCertificateofNeedStateLaws/tabid/14373/Default.aspx
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Certificate_of_Need

      The state says we know what’s best for you and where the resources are needed. If you had one of these systems and NO CON you would be in big trouble, jailed your birthday taken away and possible subjected to listening to me play my guitar. But more importantly you would not be able to get reimbursed by insurance companies Medicaid or Medicare.
      Now this might be a shocker the reimbursement rates if your able to get reimbursed are big scratch we aint talking gold in them thar hills were talking rhodium in them thar hills.
      All kidding aside one would need to present to the state the proof needed to get the permission slipped signed, and as treatments for addiction etc become more mainstream the criteria of patient load becomes more tenable.
      I hope I didn’t bore you but its just one pinheads thoughts
      Just sayin

      • Steven Colbert
        December 2, 2011 at 8:02 am #

        Your point about the need for a Certificate of Need, or what the state calls a Determination of Need, is very valid. BHS does not have a PET scanner as it is an extremely expensive piece of equipment and requires a DON from the state. I believe there is a mobile PET provided by Berkshire Hematology, as PET scanning is now very routine for cancer care diagnosis, but it’s here only a day a month or so.

        MRI installation also requires a DON, which is what led to the Berkshire Radiological Associates controversy that Mr. Ovac repeatedly refers to. In short, BMC in order to provide MRI services, had to undergo an extensive, lengthy and costly DON for both of its units. BRA wanted to use a “letter of exemption,” which they bought from another physician practice elsewhere in the state, to avoid having to go through a DON process. The legislation Mr. Ovac refers to closed the loophole, and disallowed the use of letters of exemption in the Berkshires. These letters were initially created decades earlier by DPH because at the time larger markets like Boston had a great need for additional MRIs, so they allowed physicians to open their own centers without a DON using these letters. They were meant to be used once, but the state neglected to put that in writing, so legally the letters could be sold to the highest bidder, and were. Since the local legislation went into effect, other sections of the state now have similar laws rejecting these letters, which were not being used for their original purpose.

        You are absolutely right in pointing out that over 70% of patients who receive care at BMC are on Medicare or Medicaid, and as a result, the hospital receives lower funding for that care than for privately insured patients. The state and feds will only continue to cut reimbursement under healthcare reform, not improve it, and mental health services are very underfunded.

        • Anytime
          December 2, 2011 at 9:04 am #

          AND THAT privately ensures patients get screwed for the crime of having the means to pay their own way, in other words, for having been responsibile citizens. What a system.

    • Ray Ovac
      December 1, 2011 at 10:36 pm #

      Steven Colbert,
      At the start of research on this subject, I went into it thinking that Berkshire Health Services, Inc, its subsidiaries, or related organizations offered no sort of drug abuse treatment whatsoever, but that such could be made available at any time BHS, Inc. management deemed it consistent with the organization’s professed purposes as well as exploitable as a possible profit center for BHS, Inc.’s bottom line. The discovery that a BHS-related organization, Berkshire Medical Center, did indeed already “operate a substance abuse center” with a program that “operates 24 hrs/day 365 days/year” (from BHS, Inc.’s own IRS Form 990) came as a surprise. The method by which you claim BMC-McGee currently administers its treatment program as compared to the manner in which Spectrum Health would ostensibly administer theirs would seem to be a distinction without a difference, especially since there’s no prohibition against BMC-McGee or any other BHS-related organization from adapting to meet changing circumstances and offering at any time outpatient treatment of the type you claim is not presently available through BMC-McGee. Plainly, there’s a need to be filled, otherwise Spectrum Health would not now be seeking official permission to open a branch in Pittsfield. The reimbursement issue is a ‘straw man’ argument because that could change in a heartbeat depending on how the administering government agencies decide to process such reimbursements. Further, with the Constitutionally-dubious ObamaCare looming, it’s doubtful anyone knows for certain yet just what the reimbursement rate will come to be or what dramatic changes might take place to make the opiate treatment industry a money-maker for ‘non-profit’ vendors and providers. Spectrum Health is obviously making a bet on the belief that there is, or at least could be, “gold in them thar hills”, so to argue that it’s not profitable at present for BMC-McGee is to miss the larger point that the competition believes it can be and will be worthwhile. Additionally, despite what you claim about BMC-McGee being in-patient only, the Substance Abuse Unit’s own Web page emphasizes that it offers “Outpatient Services for Clients, Families and Friends”.
      Link to ‘McGee Substance Abuse Unit’:
      http://www.berkshirehealthsystems.org/body_depts.cfm?id=392

      Question: What is the current rate by which Medicare and Medicaid presently reimburse BMC-McGee? Also, are there any other government agencies or non-government organizations presently offering subsidies or reimbursement for such treatments?

      • Steven Colbert
        December 2, 2011 at 7:53 am #

        I don’t know why the McGee Unit is such a surprise to you, Ray. It’s been around for decades, started under the former Hillcrest Hospital, which is now part of BMC, and has operated continuously as a substance abuse and recovery center. It is not designed, nor will it ever be an outpatient service. Outpatient substance abuse services are provided by the Brien Center, which has outpatient offices throughout the county.

        If you read the McGee website more carefully, you will see that the outpatient services you mention are in collaboration with the Brien Center, and it is clearly stated that admission to McGee is “based on the need for an inpatient level of care.”

        Mental health services across the state have repeatedly been slashed in many cities and towns due to the underfunded nature of government reimbursement. You can do a Google search for that and find the evidence. BHS has continued to provide mental health services as many other hospitals have either cut back or eliminated such care altogether. One such Google search will get you this informative article from Mass Live:

        http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2011/03/murders_of_massachusetts_menta.html

        My basic point is that commenters, such as yourself, have accused BHS of being involved in some kind of conspiracy to hijack the proposal for a methadone clinic and take that pile of money for its own. A methadone clinic is a part-time operation that literally dispenses medication. There is little if any follow up care, despite what Spectrum says. They make their money because they dispense a drug and move on. McGee provides comprehensive care for all substance abuse addictions, and some do involve the administration of methadone, in a controlled environment and with proper follow up care and support.

        BMC has no intention of opening a methadone clinic, as Dan has indicated from his source.

        BMC makes profit off of services like radiology, surgery, lab testing, wound care and some other services. As with any other hospital, those things that we expect a hospital to provide, like 24-hour emergency services, do not make a profit in most cases. The profit the hospital makes on some services is what subsidizes the “loss leaders.” Mental health care is a loss leader.

      • Anytime
        December 2, 2011 at 9:08 am #

        wow great response Ray. this is my thinking. I too didn’t know BMc of BHS or whatever the heck they want to call it offers METH TREATMENT. Spectrum wants to come in and offer METH TREATMENT. Spectrum has obviously studied the market and think theres gold in the berkshire hills. BMC McGee or BHS through another of its many companies could easily adapt to offer the kind of meth treatment Spectrum offers. You have nailed them, Ray, you and the Pinhead. thank you so much for this it would never air anywhere else media wise in the area. thank also the planet for this forum

  4. tito
    December 1, 2011 at 10:42 am #

    Hilly Billy..great post, thank you!

  5. Hilly Billy 2 in Ward 4
    December 1, 2011 at 10:54 am #

    PS…Esteemed Councilor Krol, Since we all know you read this blog, will you answer the questions directly? Or are you above speaking directly to average citizens, ie, the unwashed masses.

    • Steve Wade
      December 1, 2011 at 11:56 am #

      Hilly what is with your obsession with Mr. Krol? Its kind of creepy!

    • John Krol
      December 1, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

      Hilly,
      I believe my position has been very clear in my comments in response to such concerns. However, if you’d like to speak with me about this further, I’m happy to meet with you in person. In fact, I’d be happy to invite you on Good Morning Pittsfield as a guest to discuss these issues. I look forward to it.
      Let me know, you can email me at krolward6@gmail.com. I look forward to your message.

      • Steve Wade
        December 1, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

        John ten bucks says Hilly doesnt take up your offer!

      • Joe Pinhead
        December 1, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

        Mr. Krol,
        I’m not certain that using Hilly or anyone else to bolster the ratings of your show is what really needs to be done. How about an open working session regarding both the crime and drug problems here in the City?
        We could have the Council chambers set up and have some of the department heads give both the Council and the public some hard cold information. Such as assaults last year vs years past Drug busts the number of sexual predators and the registry etc. We could do this as a retreat to ensure all council members can attend. There could be ample time to hear from members of the public as well as professionals from outside the city. Like the Ma State Police, or say someone from Ma mental health to talk about drugs and addiction? We could hear from experts and see what “we” are doing right were we need to improve and more importantly understand the issues, challenges and each other. Im certain your ratings will not be impacted, and if your hell bent on the coffee with Hilly I will bring a box of Joe to the retreat you can have first cup.
        It would also be a great time for the new Mayor and council to get a first hand view of the situation and we can all be using the same information to obtain the same end result a safer community. Mr. Krol It isn’t going to happen via the lottery.
        Just sayin

        • John Krol
          December 2, 2011 at 4:45 am #

          Mr. Pinhead,
          Great ideas. I’d like to help you develop these into a reality, and I can help. Let’s meet in person to discuss them. You can email me at krolward6@gmail.com. Thanks.

          • Joe Pinhead
            December 2, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

            Unless and until you provide me with an official e-mail address you are nothing more than an anonymous blogger.
            just sayin

      • LV
        December 1, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

        John,you are a gentleman and Dan would have offered the same.

  6. Ray Ovac
    December 1, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    DV,
    Has the State Ethics Commission and also the State Board of Bar Overseers been formally notified about the conflict-of-interest posed by Richard M. Dohoney being City Attorney simultaneous with being trustee at Berkshire Health Systems while the city is involved in deliberations regarding the granting of a permit to BHS competitor Spectrum Health and now legal action against Spectrum? This reeks!

  7. Mark Smith
    December 1, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    This is absolutely fantastic collaborative investigating and reporting. Keep up the great work!

  8. Hilly Billy 2 in Ward 4
    December 1, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    @ SW..Creepy??? Thats funny coming from you, The King Of Creep, man its been peaceful, progressive and effective without you on here…Anyone else “pleased” to have Steve Wade back on this blog?? Not!!

    @ J Krol…Thanks for your typical “no answer” answer to my specific questions…as far as the invite into your little political den down at Taconic High, I think I’ll pass, because I’m pretty grumpy in the morning as it is, being an old man and all, and dealing with your preppy, chipper and arrogant self, I might beat you with my cane..

    • jimbo
      December 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

      @ Hill Billy: I’d put a hundo on the fact that you’re not an old man, rather an unemployed 30 something, and another hundo that you’re wearing a cape right now sitting in your mom’s basement as you type. The guy extends an invitation and you respond with a threat. Typical.

      • Steve Wade
        December 1, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

        Jimbo you da man!

        • Hilly Billy 2 in Ward 4
          December 2, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

          OK John

      • Hilly Billy 2 in Ward 4
        December 2, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

        “Up, Up and Away” “Its a bird, no its a plane, no its Hilly Billy in Ward 4?” I don’t think so jimbo, oh and by the way….?? Sorry bout that, I lost my train of thought, my mom was screaming from upstairs to “turn down the music”

    • John Krol
      December 1, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

      Okay, perhaps we can meet for coffee at a more reasonable time for you. I hope to speak with you soon so we can meet in person. I will look forward to hearing from you.

      • LV
        December 1, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

        Insiders know that SW is JD. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not I personally thought he’d be a bit more open. I have known him to be well rounded and unbiased, young and enthusiastic with lots of energy. Thought he’d see Dan for who he really is. This just tell ME that only an intellectual could get this story.

        • Hilly Billy 2 in Ward 4
          December 2, 2011 at 5:55 am #

          if SW is JD, then who is JD?

          • Molly
            December 2, 2011 at 9:48 pm #

            Jerry Doyle?

      • Hilly Billy 2 in Ward 4
        December 2, 2011 at 5:55 am #

        Again, thanks for the “no answer” answer..in typical snarky Krolspeak

        • John Krol
          December 2, 2011 at 7:15 am #

          Hilly,
          I am willing to meet with you in person and speak about these issues, which will assuredly be more productive than exchanging messages as an anonymous blogger. I look forward to speaking with you in person, and again, you are welcome to come as a guest on Good Morning Pittsfield to discuss your concerns with me.
          Thank you.

  9. Poker Boy
    December 1, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    Love the way that ordinary citizens have contributed to the unmasking of this story like peeling an onion down to its sweet core.

  10. Scott
    December 1, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    They do have a monopoly here in the Berkshires but it’s only a bad thing when they don’t provide service and you don’t have someone else to turn to well I guess bay state in Springfield or Boston I hear a lot of people going there heck we even elected to have our new babies surgery at bay state after her local doctor recommended we do. There’s plenty of help here for drug users who want help I say go cold turkey or check in to rehab and detox under medical supervision I’m still against it and this is typical of Pittsfield politics anyway everyone is connected it’s so small.

    • Ray Ovac
      December 2, 2011 at 8:53 am #

      Scott, You write above that: “…….this is typical of Pittsfield politics anyway everyone is connected it’s so small.”
      True to a point, except that the monies involved aren’t ‘small’. The cash flowing through Berkshire Health System, Inc. and its related subsidiaries is quite substantial. Just Berkshire Medical Center, Inc. by itself has throughput of nearly a third of a Billion dollars annually! Not only that, but given BHS, Inc’s near-monopoly control of health care services in Berkshire County, it means that Berkshire County residents are the ones who are subsidizing BHS, Inc’s expansion not just throughout Massachusetts but also across the state line into other far away places. And let’s not forget about BHS, Inc’s warm and friendly Cayman Islands subsidiary. :)

  11. Mark Smith
    December 1, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    I have been discussing this issue with a nurse at BMC who is totally against a methadone or suboxone outpatient clinic for addicts. She has seen first hand the environment of the clinic in Springfiled and the zombie like “patients” that patronize the clinic. My friend insists that the McGee unit is an in-patient facility only and not at all similiar nor competitive with an out-patient facility. Bringing an out-patient faciility to Pittsfield will only encourage the addicts and make the trip shorter to get their fix. If this is the case, the city is only tryng to restrict outpatients only. If this information is wrong, let me know and I will gladly relay it to my friend.

    • danvalenti
      December 1, 2011 at 7:55 pm #

      MARK
      Excellent points. You are right. McGee is an in-patient treatment facility, but it is also listed as a “methadone treatment center” on allaboutsuboxone.com. If you go there and click on “Find Methadone Treatment Clinics in Your Area” link, you will see BMC/McGee listed. I don’t know to what extent an out-patient clinic would compete with an in-patient one. Spectrum Health Systems’ website said it provides counseling as part of its services. That would seem to indicate more than just a five-minute, drink-your-dose-and-be-gone service. It’s worth exploring. BHS has told THE PLANET that Spectrum would not be considered a competitor in meth treatment.

      • Ray Ovac
        December 1, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

        DV,
        You write, “BHS has told THE PLANET that Spectrum would not be considered a competitor in meth treatment.”
        No doubt the chickens are comforted knowing that the Fox is assuring everyone that the new Coyote in town isn’t a competitor.

    • Molly
      December 1, 2011 at 9:38 pm #

      There is already a suboxone clinic on North Street (“Experience Wellness Centers LLC”) – it is almost across the street from Steve Valenti Clothing — a tad south, at 152 North Street.. This company has a clinic in Pittsfield and a clinic in Springfield. Here’s their website:
      http://experiencewellnesscenters.com/index.php

      They treat addictions to heroin, oxy, percocets, vicodin,morphine and any other narcotics. A copy & paste from their website:
      What Happens If I Use Opioids While I am taking Suboxone?

      At Experience Wellness Centers, we understand the nature of chronic opioid dependence. Relapse can be a part of this disease. If you relapse (we check urine tox screens at every visit) you will get a strike. Each strike has a different consequence. If you have more than three strikes consecutively, you will be taken off of Suboxone and offered a higher level of supervision such as METHADONE, detox, or intensive outpatient therapy (IOP) at another program. When your treatment team at EWC feels that you are ready, you will be welcomed back to the Suboxone Program. It’s all about readiness for change and wellness.

      So the fact that this is, according to their website, already there, how did they get past the zoning hoopla and get permits to open their business? Why wasn’t this opened “over Jimmy Ruberto’s dead body”? — a quote from Ruberto in the BB. And why is there such hoopla now?

  12. CONCERNED
    December 1, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    REmember it won’t be just our people going to this clinic it will bring out of area people also. And believe me some will became citizens here. We don’t need these people we have enough.

  13. Ray Ovac
    December 2, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    Steven Colbert,
    You claim above that “BMC has no intention of opening a methadone clinic, as Dan (Valenti) has indicated from his source.”
    It’s comforting to know that an anonymous poster using a nom de plume is claiming this as fact, but it would be far more believable if BHS, Inc. CEO David Phelps himself were to issue a press release unequivocally stating this to be BHS, Inc. policy and ruling out any such operations in perpetuity. It’s doubtful Phelps will be making any such a promise, though. First, because why should he? Second, why hamstring BHS, Inc. or its related organizations in adapting to meet changing circumstances? After all, BHS, Inc.’s stated purpose, according to its mission statement on file with IRS in Form 990 is “to improve the health of all people in the Berkshires and surrounding communities, regardless of their ability to pay.” (IRS Form 990, Part I, line 1; also see Schedule ‘O’; Link to Guidestar, PDF pg. 29: http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2010/042/442/2010-042442944-076d7c95-9.pdf )
    Therefore, who can predict whether or not in a year or two, or five, or ten that BHS, Inc. may come to the conclusion that the need is there and that fulfilling said need conforms to BHS, Inc.’s 501c3 mission statement?

    • Steven Colbert
      December 2, 2011 at 8:54 am #

      Your argument keeps going around in circles, Ray. We’re talking about the here and now. Spectrum is looking to put in a methadone clinic in downtown now, and BHS has no interest in opening one, plain and simple. Honestly, answer the question – if BHS wanted to open a methadone clinic, don’t you think they would have by now?

      Speculating as to whether circumstances change in two or five years is useless and doesn’t address this situation in particular. You wanted to know what BHS’s stand was, and I’ve told you. And I can assure you, my comments are from an insiders perspective, not third-hand or rampant speculation.

      Believe it or not, as Sigmund Freud never actually said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar… in other words, not everything in this city is a conspiracy built behind closed doors at Remo’s bar.

      • Anytime
        December 2, 2011 at 9:21 am #

        Remo’s bar!! Funny!

        Have to say you seem to know what you’re saying, and so do mr. Ray Ovac. 2 high level exahcnges from two smart guys who know their stuff all done politely and the rest of us profit. Thank you two gentlemen whomever you are.

  14. Ray Ovac
    December 2, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    Scott, You write above that: “…….this is typical of Pittsfield politics anyway everyone is connected it’s so small.”
    True to a point, except that the monies involved aren’t ‘small’. The cash flowing through Berkshire Health System, Inc. and its related subsidiaries is quite substantial. Just Berkshire Medical Center, Inc. by itself has throughput of nearly a third of a Billion dollars annually! Not only that, but given BHS, Inc’s near-monopoly control of health care services in Berkshire County, it means that Berkshire County residents are the ones who are subsidizing BHS, Inc’s expansion not just throughout Massachusetts but also across the state line into other far away places. And let’s not forget about BHS, Inc’s warm and friendly Cayman Islands subsidiary. :)

    • Scott
      December 2, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

      Did they tare down that church for another parking lot for BMC?

  15. Ray Ovac
    December 2, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    Steven Colbert,
    Rare it is to find a successful business executive who makes serious long-term financial commitments and investments based on the absolute here and now. Spectrum Health is investing for its future, just like when Warren Buffett pays a whopping premium over current market price for stock to acquire Burlington Northern Railroad; Buffett is investing for Berkshire Hathaway’s future. Certainly, BHS, Inc. is no exception. If any of what you allege is to be accepted as binding, then you might want — given your alleged insider status — to encourage BHS, Inc. CEO David Phelps to issue a definitive press release spelling-out in detail BHS, Inc.’s intentions in re this entire subject. That would certainly be a helluva lot better than someone alleging insider-status with an anonymous nom de plume using a third-party blog (PlanetValenti) to make unverifiable allegations regarding BHS, Inc. company policy, which allegations carry no legal weight.

  16. CONCERNED
    December 2, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    BMC is the only one cleaning up that end of town. Thanks BMC