Tewksbury Recovery Home Has Neighbors Upset

July 30, 2018
Genevieve Worthington, who lives next door to the house purchased by Into Action Recovery for a sober home on Fox Run Drive in Tewksbury, talks about her concerns with her neighbors on Thursday. Joining her, from left, are Bill Hanlin, Edina Braga and her husband John Powers, Jim Arsenault and Joe Lombardo. "They don t have the credentials, the certification, the education, the training, policies, procedures or protocols to be able to not only keep us safe in the neighborhood, but to be able to keep the residents that are going to be moving in there safe," Worthington said. SUN / JULIA MALAKIE

TEWKSBURY -- Fox Run Drive is a quaint horseshoe road off Pike Street. There’s no traffic, it’s quiet and there is a friendly camaraderie among neighbors.

After learning that Into Action Recovery Inc. purchased a home on the road for a sober living home for men, many feel their way of life, comfortability and sense of security will change.

Genevieve Worthington lives next door to the house that is planned to be Into Action Recovery’s sober home. Worthington said although they are fighting for a great cause, with “no process, no manual, no training and no education,” it can become an issue.

“They don’t have the credentials, the certification, the education, the training, policies, procedures or protocols to be able to not only keep us safe in the neighborhood, but to be able to keep the residents that are going to be moving in there safe,” Worthington said.

The residents learned about the home purchase in different ways. Fox Run Drive resident Desmond Kaplan said there is a lack of trust because residents were not informed prior to the purchase.

“If they had started the discussion with, ‘here’s our plan, here’s what we’re doing, here’s the rules we’re following, here’s the regulations we’re following’ -- if they had started the discussion that way, then maybe this situation would be a lot different than it is now,” Kaplan said.

David Hanley, who will be the director of the home once it opens, said there are a number of misconceptions about how the sober home will operate and what impact it will have on the neighborhood. He has overcome his own addiction to drugs through a 12-step program, which Into Action Recovery’s sober home will be modeled after. The home will serve up to 12 men at a time.

Hanley said before being approved for residency in the house, CORI checks will be completed and he will personally conduct an additional screening process. No one with a history of violent or inappropriate sexual behavior will be permitted in the house, he said.

“The misconception is there’s so much relapse inside the house,” Hanley said. “Statistics show that relapses do happen, of course. But in the program that we’re trying to run, relapses typically occur after people leave here.”

Hanley did say a guest would be asked to leave the house for behavior that would precede a relapse, like not following the strict protocols they intend to enforce. For the past four years Hanley has worked at Michael’s House, a recovery home for men in Wilmington. He said there will be two other employees in the house, who have worked as managers in Michael’s House, who will stay overnight at the home.

A group of Fox Run Drive residents spoke up at the last Board of Selectmen’s meeting outlining their concerns with Into Action Recovery opening a sober living home in their neighborhood.

“First and foremost, the Board of Selectmen obviously recognize this is an extremely emotional issue,” said board Chairman Jay Kelly. “It’s too early to determine what the town can or can’t do. That said, the takeaway (from the meeting) was the town manager was going to engage and work with the department heads, town counsel, the Board of Selectmen, the residents and Into Action Recovery folks to see what we can or can’t do.”

Russ Macomber has been living on Fox Run Drive for the past 33 years, the longest of any of his neighbors.

“I think our big argument at this point is that this has got to stop,” Macomber said. “It’s ludicrous that people can buy a house and just plop this in the middle of a neighborhood like this and they tell us we can’t do anything about it. That’s nuts.”

Macomber said the frustrations he shares with his fellow neighbors is not a sign that they are not sympathetic to the opioid crisis, but that it’s just not the right setting.

Some asked why the sober home could not be in another location, like on Tewksbury State Hospital land. But Hanley said, this type of program is not conducive for a medical setting when trying to transition people back into their lifestyles before their addictions.

“This is the final step in the recovery process before somebody goes on their own,” he said. “We want to ease them back in, so we bring them back into as close a setting they’ll have at home. We try to recreate that here, but with certain guidelines.”

Other concerns expressed by some Fox Run Drive residents are how their property values will be impacted, how trash will be handled for the number of residents, what visitation policies will be like, the potential for additional traffic and more. In addition, Worthington said she could easily point out plenty of areas in the neighborhood where someone could get “their next fix.”

“I’m not saying the residents are not going to try to stay on the program,” she said, “but if you don’t have qualified individuals working with them every day, managing, monitoring and understanding their behaviors, you will have relapse.”

More than anything, Hanley, and his aunt and mother, Mary-Ellen Cooper and Patty-Jo Hanley, who co-founded the organization, said they want to create a serene, quiet, uneventful environment.

“We just hope they give us a chance to prove ourselves,” Cooper said.

Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter @KoriTuitt.