Residents voice concerns with group living environment

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max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

Gail Frigon lives on S. Washington Street, across the street from the Hixon House, one of the oldest buildings in town, and soon to be the site of a new group living environment for people recovering from mental illness.

Frigon understands that there is a need for such places, but felt that the news that the Hixon House at 152 S. Washington St. had been sold has been done “underhandedly.” She, along with roughly two dozen residents, attended a meeting on Nov. 19 to discuss the new group home, to be run by Community Counseling of Bristol County [CCBC]. She added that the home, built in 1881, is a diamond for North Attleborough and should remain as a historical site that people can visit.

We weren’t even prepared for what you’ve done,” she said at the meeting, held at the Community School. “It’s such an overload.”

The new CCBC center is expected to be open within the next two months and will serve up to eight people. Philip Shea, president and CEO of CCBC, has said previously that patients will be mostly older adults and not pose a danger to themselves or others. Educational programs for daily care and self-care will be included to prepare them for going back into the community. Staff will be present all day, with four to five in the daytime, three to four in the afternoon, and two overnight. There will also be a crisis team which can respond within 15 minutes in the event of an emergency.

Residents in this home will be able to leave if they want to, which had many concerned, including Herbert Hedberg, who also lives on S. Washington Street. He suggested a curfew and supervision when they’re out in the community.

I think you need to be watching these people closer than that,” he said.

Those living in the home will be referred by the Department of Public Health, said Shea, and will have done so because other treatment options aren’t working. Should their symptoms worsen, they would be transferred to a higher level of care.

The alternative for most of these people is under a bridge,” he said.

Dan Fisher, a psychiatric director with the CCBC, said patients go through a number of assessments before they come to Community Counseling. Some might be college-educated, while others may be former business owners or have been cared for by their parents. He said the process of referrals is a collaborative one, but that they cannot predict the outcome of treatments.

No plans are in place to renovate the building, said Shea, aside from new wiring being installed. Fire Chief Christopher Coleman said he would review the architectural plans to see if any further improvements needed to be done to ensure safety, such as potentially updating the sprinkler system.

Town Council President Keith Lapointe said that transparency was the key, that the community needed to be informed as to what was happening.

There could be other issues, there could be an isolated incident,” he said. “What does being a good neighbor look like?”