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Addiction resource center opens April 7

Date: 4/6/2010

April 7, 2010.

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM -- The community-wide town-sponsored drug and alcohol addiction forum in January had a domino effect city officials hadn't anticipated -- a substantial influx in public consciousness and a need for a tangible place people could go for answers.

The Agawam Addiction Resource Center (AARC) will open its doors this Wednesday as a new eight-week pilot program for those seeking more information within an informal, anonymous setting. The new one night a week drop-in center is free for all and will be manned by members of the police department and parents of those in treatment.

"No one is there to judge anyone. The police officers won't even wear uniforms," Mark Poggi, Agawam High School's resource officer, explained.

He stressed that no one is going to be interrogated or arrested; rather, the officers will be there to help answer questions and provide educational materials and visual aids such as drug identification kits.

Mayor Richard Cohen noted the high volume of inquiries made to his office and to the police and school departments prompted the establishment of AARC. He explained the center, housed at Feeding Hills Congregational Church each Wednesday, will be maintained by volunteers and won't cost the city any money.

"The AARC is one of our new approaches to handling situations in the community in a positive way, utilizing our DARE officers and our school resource officer . [with] ways to help parents and individuals with problems that they may need to discuss," Cohen said.

Poggi explained he receives many of the same questions from parents such as what certain drugs look like and inquiries about the signs of drug or alcohol abuse, parental rights and treatment options.

He said some parents are concerned about privacy issues and are fearful of searching their child's room. Poggi said parents have the right and moral obligation to search any part of their home they deem appropriate.

He urged those who locate suspicious substances to take it to the police department, physician or pharmacy for identification.

Poggi noted if people choose to utilize AARC over the next eight weeks, town officials and volunteers would extend the program.

"If we can save one kid it's worth it," he said.

AARC will be open each Wednesday beginning April 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Feeding Hills Congregational Church, 21 North Westfield St.