By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
FRANKLIN — “Yours is very noble work, Cheryl, very noble work,” Mayor Ken Merrifield of Franklin told Cheryl Wilkie, senior vice president of the Farnum Center, when Easter Seals marked the opening of Farnum North at Webster Place Tuesday. The center offers capacity to serve 63 adults with a wide variety of treatments.
“I did not do this alone,” said Wilkie, herself 30 years in recovery, who invited the staff of the center to share the stage with Gov. Maggie Hassan; Larry Gammon, president and chief executive officer of Easter Seals; and Ian McDermott, like his father a past president of the Farnum Center. She thanked all those who contributed to the project and said that to “stop the pain and the tears” everyone—treatment providers, family members, law enforcement and clients — must work together. “It’s the only way it works,” she said, to loud applause.
The Farnum Center opened in Manchester in 1981 and in 2008 joined the Easter Seals family. Two years later, Alex Ray, owner of the Common Man group of restaurants, approached the Farnum Center with an offer to merge with the Webster Place Recovery Center, which he developed in 2007. In 2015, the Farnum Center embarked on a campaign, supplemented by a challenge gift from Ray, to secure licensing and expand services at the facility in Franklin from the state for the facility, which it called Farnum North.
Originally the homestead of Daniel Webster, the property became the state orphanage, then a convent of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, who operated an orphanage and school on the site. The entire property of some 140 acres consists of 130 acres of surrounding farmland in private ownership but protected by a conservation easement and some 10 acres with four buildings with an aggregate of 70,000 square feet of space. The center currently occupies two buildings, the Ray House with 21 beds reserved for women and the main building with 42 beds for men. Two buildings on the campus, with some 30,000 square feet between them, remain to be renovated.
Susan Ryan, chief operating officer offer Easter Seals, acknowledged that staffing has been a challenge, but anticipated that within five or six weeks Farnum Center North will have the personnel it requires to operate at full capacity.
Mary Beth LaValley, vice president of substance abuse services at the Farnum Center, said that the facility provides a full range of services, including medical detoxification, residential treatment and intensive outpatient treatment and is the only licensed provider of medically assisted treatment outside a hospital in the state. She said “We take all comers,” and will provide $1 million in free services this year and his budgeted $2 million for next year. “We seek to remove the barriers to access to treatment,” she said, explaining that when necessary subsidies are provided to insured clients faced with high deductibles.
The facility provides provides a full range of services, including medical detoxification, residential treatment and intensive outpatient treatment and is the only licensed provider of medically assisted treatment outside a hospital in the state.
Hassan recalled numerous measures enacted by the Legislature to address the crisis of opiate addiction, emphasizing the importance of extending Medicaid, which includes a substance abuse benefit, and appropriating $5 million to increase capacity for treatment. However, she underlined the significance of those losing family members to substance abuse and those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction, who have spoken openly about their experience. Their statements, she said, contribute to dispelling the stigma of addiction. “It is a disease, not a character defect,” the governor insisted, “and care should be available in a comprehensive, integrated health care system.”
Hassan recalled meeting a grandmother holding a baby boy during an Easter egg hunt on the State House lawn, who told her the child’s mother had recently died from an overdose.
“That grandmother was demonstrating that we can beat this thing,” she said. “We must work together to acknowledge this illness in our midst,” she continued,”We are stemming, reversing and beating the tide of the epidemic.”
All smiles when the ribbon was cut at the Farnum Center North at Webster Place in Franklin Tuesday were, from left, Cheryl Wilkie, senior vice president of the Farnum Center; Ken Merrifield, mayor of Franklin; Gov. Maggie Hassan; Larry Gammon, president of Easter Seals New Hampshire; Alex Ray, owner of the Common Man restaurants; Ian McDermott, past president of the Farnum Center; and Andy McWilliam, chairman of the board of Easter Seals New Hampshire. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)
This is the chapel of the former convent of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. It will now be used as a meeting room at the Farnum Center.
This sunny bedroom is one that will serve participants in a substance abuse program at Farnum Center North in Franklin. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)
This is the main building at Webster Place in Franklin. It was the old Daniel Webster homestead.