Local lawmakers back bill aimed at opioid crisis

By Jim Hand; July 10, 2018; The Sun Chronicle
Local lawmakers say they support a House bill aimed at addressing the state’s opioid crisis, although it lacks a few provisions they were hoping for.
A vote on the legislation is expected as soon as Wednesday.
The representatives said addiction to opioids and the overdoses that come with it are one of the biggest problems they face. Police, doctors and families of addicts are constantly asking them for action, they said Tuesday.
“We’re in a crisis. We’re in an epidemic,” state Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, said.
The state says 2,016 people died of overdoses last year in Massachusetts, a 6 percent decrease from the year before.
Dooley said he backs the bill because it has a lot of good ideas, although it lacks some he wanted.
One provision, which he previously proposed as a separate bill, would allow patients to take only a portion of their prescription for painkillers from a pharmacy “to see how it goes,” he said.
If the patient needs the rest of the prescription, they could go back and get it without making another co-payment.
The idea is encourage patients to bring home fewer drugs to avoid having excess pills lying around the house that could be misused, he said.
Dooley said he is disappointed the bill does not include a proposal he, Gov. Charlie Baker and others made to give doctors the authority to order a patient who has overdosed to be held for three days without court approval.
It was in the original version of the bill but House Speaker Robert DeLeo reportedly disapproved of it.
Dooley said it is a commonsense idea that he believes would help doctors.
“It’s another tool in their tool box,” he said.
He said he would offer an amendment to put it back in the bill.
Robin Hamlin of Plainville, who heads a local support group for the families of addicts called Unconditional Love, said she is glad the state is addressing the problem because previous attempts have not gone far enough.
“A lot more is needed,” she said.
Hamlin, whose son died of an overdose, said one of the most glaring problems is a shortage of beds in treatment centers.
“There are not enough places to go around,” she said.
She said an addict in crisis cannot be expected to wait for openings.
Dooley, however, said it appears funding for additional beds is not in the bill.
State Rep. Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro, said more treatment beds is probably the most common suggestion he hears from police, doctors and families.
The bill will also call for keeping prescriptions records electronically so addicts cannot go “doctor shopping” and keep getting more bills, he said.
Hawkins said addressing opioid problems is one of the largest issues facing the state and a top priority for him.
He has been meeting with police and other officials on the issue and attended a forum sponsored by state Sen. Paul Feeney, D-Foxboro, on the matter.
Elected in a special election in April, Hawkins said he will give his “maiden speech” in the House Wednesday and it will be on the opioid crisis.

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Automatic voter registration passes House, splits local delegation

By Jim Hand; June 28, 2018; The Sun Chronicle

Citizens who renew their driver’s licenses or enroll in state health care would automatically become registered voters under a bill passed by the Massachusetts House.

The bill, which the House passed Wednesday, still needs the approval of the Senate and governor, but supporters said it would help increase voter turnout in elections. If adopted into law, eligible people who do business with the Registry of Motor Vehicles or MassHealth would automatically become registered voters.

Local city and town clerks would send them a postcard to designate themselves as a Democrat, Republican or independent. The card would also give the person the opportunity to opt out of being a registered voter.

The local House delegation was divided over the bill. State Reps. Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro, and Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, voted for it while Reps. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk, and Jay Barrows, RMansfield, opposed it.

Hawkins said he supported it because there are 700,000 eligible voters in Massachusetts who are not registered and the bill would help fix that.

“We should make it easier to vote,” he said.

Hawkins noted that most people no longer visit city halls because they pay their bills and do other transactions online, so they don’t see the voter registration office.

Supporters said the legislation could increase voting by 5 percent.

Dooley said he has his doubts about how effective the bill will be, but as a former town clerk he is in favor of almost any measure to get more participation in elections.

He said he got two amendments attached to the bill. One will have Massachusetts contribute to a national database of voters and the other would require the state to train local election commissioners.

The opponents said they feared the cost of running the program would fall to cities and towns with no state aid. “It puts a tremendous burden on the towns,” Poirier said, noting that North Attleboro only has two people working in its elections office.

Barrows said another consideration he had is that inaccurate information could get into the voting rolls. He also said he believes automatic registration goes too far.

Howitt said he believes it is already easy to register to vote if people are willing to make the effort.

“If a person wants to vote, they will make the effort to vote,” he said.

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Rep. Shawn Dooley holds state house Stop The Bleed training course

June 11, 2018; Wicked Local Norfolk

Following the filing of his bill HD.4327, The Massachusetts Trauma Response Preparedness Act, state Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, hosted doctors and nurses from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at the State House to train state legislators, legislative staff, and interns on the basics of bleeding control.

Through a mixture of lecture-style and hands-on activities, the American College of Surgeons’ nationally recognized, revolutionary, and life-saving course focuses on teaching bystanders how to identify serious hemorrhaging, stem it, and manage a potentially life-threatening situation until the arrival of first responders. The event was hosted to raise awareness for the simplicity and effectiveness of basic bleeding control kits in saving lives in hopes to pass Dooley’s bill, which would require every public building in Massachusetts — including public and private schools, libraries, transportation facilities, recreational facilities, entertainment and sporting venues, and buildings of government — to house one of these kits and a person trained to use it.

At the event Dooley expressed a national need for basic bleeding control kits not only as a result of the massive increase in Mass Casualty Incidents (MCIs) among civilians, such as the Sandy Hook shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing, but also for their utility in saving lives in even more common incidents such as car accidents and workplace injuries. In this regard the Stop the Bleeding Coalition (SBC), a national grassroots coalition of medical professionals, law enforcement officers, former military personnel, first responders, educators, and concerned citizens, estimates that each year more than 1,000 savable lives are lost due to inefficiencies in our emergency response systems and 80 percent of all civilian trauma fatalies are in fact due to hemmorhage from an extremity.

Dooley, along with the American College of American Surgeons, the Stop the Bleeding Coalition, and a group of bipartisan co-sponsors in the Massachusetts House and Senate are intent on addressing these issues and saving more lives by allowing bystanders to play the role of immediate first responders. As participants saw, a bleeding control kit contains easy-to-use tools such as a tourniquet, gauze, and gloves that would allow the average bystander to step in and act in an emergency. Participants practiced such a situation in a simulation, using a tourniquet to stop the bleeding and gauze to pack the wound.

The main provisions to Dooley’s bill speak to this simple idea. A firefighter and EMT himself in Plainville, Dooley frequently communicated his own experiences with trauma and the usefulness of tourniquets in discussion to the group present. “While they may seem to be flimsy, these little tourniquets literally are capable of savings thousands of lives per year. I know because I’ve witnessed it. In fact, it’s the reason so many people survived the marathon bombings a few years ago,” said Dooley.

This fact was confirmed by all the doctors and nurses present, many of whom were on duty that day.

In his concluding remarks, Dooley said, “I’m very grateful to the doctors and nurses from Beth Israel for coming to the State House to certify my colleagues and their staff on trauma response and bleeding control. This is vital training that will not only save lives but will also ensure that everyone is duly prepared to address such injuries. It is my sincere hope that the importance of my initiative is seen, and I hope you will join me in making Massachusetts the first in the nation to make this a reality.”

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Paying homage to veterans

By Mike Gleason; May 28, 2018; Wicked Local Walpole

Local residents gathered around the town common Monday (May 28) to pay homage to those killed in battle.
The town’s Memorial Day observances took place at noon – with speeches, music and ceremonies meant to honor the sacrifices made by those in the armed services.
Walpole Veterans Agent Jon Cogan said the flag at the center of town was held at half staff throughout the morning as a way to remember those sacrifices. The flag is raised at noon, he said, to show the country’s resolve in ensuring those actions were not made in vain.
State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, said it was a special thing that men and women knowingly volunteer to protect their country.
“We owe them a huge debt – not just today, but every day,” he said. “They gave their lives so we could be here.”
Dooley said it was the country’s obligation to honor that sacrifice by remembering those who gave it. He told the story of a Marine – killed at Guadalcanal in World War II – whose remains were recently identified and returned to the United States as a way of illustrating how the country works to fulfill that obligation.
John Power, a Walpole resident and veteran, was the featured speaker. He said, while there are several definitions of “veteran,” his was rather simple: a veteran was anyone who had, at some point, written a blank check to the country – for an amount up to and including their own life.
“We’re here today to honor those who have had their check cashed,” he said.
Power spoke of the history of the holiday, noting it has risen from a grassroots effort to honor those who died in the Civil War. It had evolved from that original purpose – and its original name, Decoration Day – to a federally recognized holiday celebrating all American soldiers who had perished in service to their country.
The town common, said Power, was an appropriate place to hold the ceremony, as it encompassed the breadth of the town’s history. In it, he said, were monuments commemorating soldiers from the first Colonial companies of the French and Indian War all the way up to the War on Terror.
Power asked that those present keep the true meaning of the holiday alive and remember and honor the sacrifices made to keep the nation free.

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Our view: Washington could learn lots from local lawmakers

Editorial; May 28, 2018; The Sun Chronicle

If Washington needs an example on how to act, they should look to this area.
All five Attleboro area state representatives last week supported the so-called “Red Flag” bill.
The legislation, which passed the House 139-14, allows for a court order to take away the guns of those found to pose “extreme risk” to themselves or others.
What’s noteworthy is that four of the area’s five state representatives are conservative Republicans who were initially reluctant to back it.
However, those four — Jay Barrows of Mansfield, Shawn Dooley of Norfolk, Steven Howitt of Seekonk and Betty Poirier of North Attleboro — were among those supporting amendments approved by the House that eased their concerns enough to end opposition and make their constituents safer.
One key change was that a provision allowing guns to be taken away for a year was reduced to up to a year, leaving the possibility of the owner getting the guns back sooner.
Other amendments would set penalties for someone who falsely accuses a gun owner of being a danger and speed up the process of returning guns if the owner’s job depended on it.
The gist of the bill remains intact: If someone appears to be a danger to themselves or others, they should not have access to guns.
Democratic supporters called the bill necessary following multiple school shootings in which the killer had previously shown signs of being a danger.
But state Rep. Jim Hawkins of Attleboro, the lone Democrat in the local delegation, cites a more frequent threat: suicide.
“Suicide by gun is all too common and this bill gives the immediate family the ability to act quickly if a person is spiraling out of control,” he said.
We salute our Republican representatives for dropping kneejerk rejection of any gun restrictions, for working for amendments that eased concerns and for ultimately supporting a bill that, if approved by the Senate and Gov. Charlie Baker, will continue to make Massachusetts one of the safest states to live. They proved Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, can find common ground.
“I’m sure we agree people who have exhibited a threat to themselves and to others probably shouldn’t be licensed to carry a gun,” Barrows told The Sun Chronicle.
If only that little bit of common sense could be exhibited in Washington.
Are Massachusetts schools any safer since Newtown?

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Local reps back ‘Red Flag’ gun bill

By Jim Hand; May 24, 2018; The Sun Chronicle
Local state representatives voted for a bill that allows for a court order to take away the guns of those found to pose “extreme risk” to themselves or others.

The so-called “Red Flag” bill passed the House 139-14 Wednesday with the support of all five local representatives, although Republicans were initially reluctant to back it.

Democratic supporters said the bill was necessary following multiple school shootings in which the killer had previously shown signs of being a danger.
If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, the law would allow family members to get acourt order to take away guns from those demonstrating behavior that indicates they might shoot
themselves or others.
State Rep. Betty Poirier, R-North Attleboro, said several amendments that were attached to the bill made it more acceptable. “We were able to get amendments to make it better. It’s not perfect by any means whatsoever,” she said. One key change, she said, is that a provision allowing guns to be taken away for a year was reduced to up to a year, leaving the possibility of the owner getting the guns back sooner.

State Rep. Jim Hawkins, D-Attleboro, also supported the bill and spoke more favorably about it.

He said it should help prevent suicides. “Suicide by gun is all too common and this bill gives the immediate family the ability to act quickly if a person is spiraling out of control,” he said.

State Rep. Steven Howitt, R-Seekonk, said there were other important amendments adopted that improved the bill. One, he said, would set penalties for someone who falsely accuses a gun owner of being a danger. Another would speed up the process of returning guns if the owner’s job depended on it, he said.
State Reps. Jay Barrows, R-Mansfield, and Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, also said they were skeptical of the bill at first but ended up voting for it.

Barrows said amendments made the bill “less bad” so that he could support it. “It is not perfect, we don’t address mental health,” he said, explaining that that is what the issue was supposed to be about. But, Barrows said, “I’m sure we agree people who have exhibited a threat to themselves and to others probably shouldn’t be licensed to carry a gun.”
Dooley said he thought the bill lacked substance and addressed issues that other laws already provide for, but also voted for it. “I voted for it because it basically did nothing that wasn’t already allowed for in Mass. law, except it added in some due process and created a penalty for false reporting, as opposed to the chief of police just determining it at his or her sole discretion,” he said.

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Norfolk Community Day set for June 2

May 22, 2018; Wicked Local Norfolk
The Norfolk Lions in conjunction with a number of local organizations are in the final planning stages for the 26th annual Norfolk Community Day to be held on June 2 at the Holmes Complex, 22 Myrtle St., Norfolk.
Community Day events start at 11 a.m.
Events at this year’s Norfolk Community Day celebration include a children’s art contest, touch a DPW truck, Tom Antonellis’ bird houses, golf ball drop 50/50 raffle and many new and old favorite amusements including the Sports Obstacle Course, Batter Up, High Striker, Wipe Out and Frozen bounce house.
The black top entertainment will include a number of local groups who have participated for the last 25 years. And back by popular demand will be Mike Piazza and his Flying High Frisbee Dogs. Mike is the top professional K-9 frisbee performer in the world. He and his highly athletic dogs will perform a variety of Frisbee and other entertaining tricks.
Many local organizations are selling goodies to raise funds and providing literature so everyone can find out what’s going on around town.
Did you know that food pantry supplies are at their lowest during the summer months, especially toward the end of the summer? To help alleviate this problem, the Lions are running a food drive at Community Day. Some items that are currently needed are jelly, maple syrup, hamburger/tuna
helper, mayonnaise, tooth paste and hand soap. Help out by bringing a donation to the Norfolk Lions booth at Community Day.
The Norfolk Lions could not undertake this fun event without the wide-spread assistance of all those who volunteer their funds, materials, and time. The Lions would like to thank the Norfolk Fire, Police and Highway Departments and the Norfolk Recreation Department for their ongoing support. They also acknowledge sponsors for this year’s Community Day, as well as annual sponsors.
Community Day Sponsors: Carpentry by Tom Antonellis, Dover Trucking, Dedham Savings Bank, Elite Foods, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Federated Church of Norfolk, Foxboro Federal Savings Bank, Holmes Transportation Company, Minuteman Press of West Newton, Norfolk Community League, Norfolk Cultural Council, Rodman Ford, State Representative Shawn Dooley, Roche Brothers, Rocky’s Auto Body, Stop & Shop and Taylor Rental.
Annual Sponsors: 1776 Financial Services, Berkshire Hathaway Page Realty, Bradbury Insurance Agency, George T. Cronin & Sons, Hamlin Cabinet Corp., Holmes Transportation Company, Next Phase Legal LLC, Norfolk Auto Inc., Norfolk Dunkin’ Donuts, Run & Gun Ranch, Samet & Company, Smartstep Flooring Inc., and William Raveis Delta Realtors.
The Lions are a non-profit organization known for working to end preventable blindness. Norfolk Lions participate in a variety of projects important to the community and proceeds of Community Day are donated back into local charities or to meet community needs.
For more information regarding Community Day, check out the Norfolk Lions website at www.norfolkmalions.org or call Ed Melanson at 508-528-9302 or Patti McCarty at 508-520-0540.


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Massachusetts House passes ‘extreme risk’ gun confiscation bill

By Shira Schoenberg; The Springfield Republican; May 23, 2018

The Massachusetts House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that would allow a judge to confiscate someone’s gun if the person poses a danger to themselves or others.
“This is about saving people’s lives and making sure there’s that intervention,” said Rep. Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge, who sponsored the bill.
The bill passed in a 139-14 vote after hours of debate and closed-door discussions.
Under the bill, a family or household member could petition a district court judge for an “extreme risk protection order” barring a licensed gun owner from possessing their gun or ammunition for up to a year. The judge would hold a full evidentiary hearing within 10 days of an order being granted to give the person a chance to respond and to decide whether to extend the order.
Supporters of the bill say it will save lives by preventing someone in crisis from harming themselves or someone else. Critics of the bill say it will not help someone with mental illness, and it will infringe of people’s civil liberties.
“We take their weapons away, then send them on their way,” said Rep. Bradford Hill, R-Ipswich. “What do you think is going to happen?”
Massachusetts already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and one of the lowest rates of gun deaths.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo, D-Winthrop, said it “makes a lot of sense” to let a spouse who sees danger signs have that person’s gun taken away. “You don’t want a person in that particular state of mind at that particular time to be having a firearm which can cause harm to themselves or others,” DeLeo said.
Police chiefs do have discretion to deny a gun license if they believe someone is unsuitable. But Rep. Harold Naughton, D-Clinton, chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, said that is not sufficient.
“Often times, local police chiefs do not have intimate information that goes on in a household that could cause a family member to doubt the ability of their loved one to possess, safely, firearms,” Naughton said.
The bill was the subject of a strong push by gun control advocates in the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Janet Goldenberg, chairwoman of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, said the bill will address suicides and homicides. Goldenberg said two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides, and suicide is often impulsive. In addition, people who are in a vulnerable moment may end up becoming mass shooters. “This is a bill that lets family members who know their loved ones the best have the opportunity to intervene before it’s too late,” Goldenberg said.
Rep. David Linsky, D-Natick, chairman of the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight and the sponsor of an earlier version of the extreme risk gun bill, said people cannot continue to accept gun violence “as the new norm.”
“If we can save one life by enacting this legislation then it’s worth it,” Linsky said.
The Gun Owners Action League, Massachusetts’ gun rights lobby, opposes the bill. GOAL says the policy would violate the rights of gun owners without doing any good, since it would let a judge confiscate someone’s guns without ensuring that the person gets any mental health treatment.
“It’s no longer about suicide prevention, it’s a gun confiscation bill,” said Jim Wallace, executive director of GOAL.
Gun rights advocates have said the state should focus on treating people’s mental health problems, rather than confiscating their guns.
Rep. Nicholas Boldyga, R-Southwick, proposed an amendment requiring anyone who is the subject of an extreme risk protective order to get a mental health evaluation and receive state-run counseling.
Although the bill would require the court to give the subject of a protective order information about mental health resources, Boldyga said, “I believe providing someone deemed dangerous and suicidal with a trifold pamphlet isn’t going far enough.”
Other House Republicans agreed that if someone is suicidal or in danger of hurting others, the person needs the state to provide mental health counseling, rather than just confiscate their guns. “We’re quick to go after someone’s fundamental constitutional rights, but not so quick to act when problems may exist,” said Rep. Paul Frost, R-Auburn.
Naughton argued that mandating counseling would enhance stigmatization of mental health issues. Some House Democrats said the issue is about violence, not mental health. They said lawmakers are dealing with mental health in other bills, including the state budget.
Boldyga’s amendment was voted down 42-109, mostly along party lines.
Similarly, Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, introduced an amendment to require a court that issues an extreme risk protective order to use an existing process to pursue emergency restraint and hospitalization for the person.
“If someone is such an extreme risk that they pose a risk to our children, they post a risk to blowing up a school, blowing up a Boston Marathon, blowing up a federal building. … Let’s make sure we use the tools at our discretion,” Norfolk said.
Naughton said emergency hospitalization is “too big a cudgel to use” and would not be appropriate in every incident, such as in cases of alcoholism or domestic abuse.
Dooley’s amendment was rejected 34-116.
Attempts by Rep. Joseph McKenna, R-Webster, to tighten the legal standards to make it harder for a judge to grant a protective order were also rejected.
Similar laws establishing extreme risk protection orders have passed in Connecticut, California, Oregon and Washington.
The bill must still be passed by the Senate and signed by Gov. Charlie Baker before it becomes law. Baker, a Republican, has not taken a position but has signaled that he is open to the idea.
The bill would also establish the same licensing procedures for stun guns as for other firearms, after a Supreme Judicial Court decision struck down Massachusetts’ ban on possessing stun guns. Under the decision, Massachusetts has until June 17 to develop regulations for stun guns. Otherwise, they will be allowed to be sold on the open market with no restrictions.
“What the Supreme Court and what the SJC said is that stun guns are incredibly dangerous and they need to be regulated,” Linsky said. “This puts them in the same regulation as other dangerous items like shotguns and like rifles.”
Lawmakers were scheduled to begin their House session at 1 p.m., but they spent most of the afternoon talking behind closed doors, only beginning debate on amendments after 5 p.m. The final vote came after 8:30 p.m.

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Norfolk Getting New Well

By Stephen Peterson; May 17, 2018; The Sun Chronicle

Residents can look forward to a new town well that will ease the local water situation. Besides passing a $38 million budget, voters at last week’s town meeting unanimously backed $2.6 million for the water system, mostly for the new well and pumping station, which will be located on land off Holbrook Street. The money is coming from water revenue. “The existing two wells are aging, and have decreased output,” advisory board member Jonathan Hurwitz said, adding the planned well will provide increased water supply to meet growing demand. Some of the funds will be used for changes in water treatment at the Gold Street and Spruce Road wells, Public Works Director Robert McGhee said. Other money is intended for monitoring the water system. The town has been searching for a suitable well site for a few years. Two articles placed on the warrant by petition of residents generated debate on town meeting floor as expected. One called for town hall to be open Fridays, the other to allow for the recall of elected officials. Former town official Peter Chipman proposed both. Town hall is open four days a week, Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. “It doesn’t fit the schedules of many people who work outside the area,” Chipman said. “Many people are not even getting off the train until 6 or 7 at night.” Area towns such as Wrentham and Foxboro have Friday hours, though their town halls and many others open that day close around noon. Most other area town halls have at least one day with night hours, Chipman noted. “The six other towns that touch us seem to have better work schedules for residents,” Chipman said. Town Administrator Jack Hathaway said employees go out of their way to offer flexible hours if a resident can’t make the set hours. “We do think we get a lot of people in the late afternoon,” Hathaway said, noting hours had been changed over the years but standard hours have led to less confusion. Advisory board members successfully opposed any change, with Hurwitz saying the four-day work week and a three-day weekend helps attract and retain employees, and opening town hall another day would reduce daily hours and increase utility and other costs. It was also pointed out more business can be done online now. The measure for recalling elected officials, which would have required the signatures of 200 residents to force a special election, also wasn’t approved. “We think the ultimate checks and balance system should also exist at the town level,” Chipman said. Hathaway countered: “This is a small town. It’s hard to get people to run for elected boards.” He added he didn’t think three-year terms were that long to elect someone else. State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, backed requiring a 90-day cooling off period from an election and only requesting such a recall once in a term. Advisory board members successfully persuaded residents, at a vote of 64-30, to forward the proposal to the bylaw study committee. “Personally I think this is something that would be helpful for accountability,” board member Art Frontczak said. The only building and equipment expense not being put off to the fall town meeting was nearly $300,000 for a new ambulance. Residents also agreed to create a tow

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‘Gilly’s House': A sober house in Wrentham created with a mother’s love

By Judee Cosentino; May 6, 2018; The Sun Chronicle

The sprawling, 8,000-square-foot house on 1022 West St., created by a mother’s love to become a sober house, is still three weeks away from officially opening, but it is already drawing attention from the local community.
More than 100 members of the community, including family and friends of David and Barbara Gillmeister, who lost their son Steven to an opioid overdose, turned out Sunday to tour the house and offer their best wishes to the parents who gave new life to the former Sheldonville Nursing Home.
Built in 1849, the prominent house contains 12 bedrooms, two public and one private community room, five half-bathrooms, four full bathrooms, a renovated kitchen, as well as “thousands of closets,” according to David Gillmeister.
As the guests toured the winding upstairs hallways with a ceiling close enough to touch, or checked out the semi-furnished redecorated bedrooms, the homey atmosphere was palpable to all who walked through the door.
“The love is painted on the walls,” one visitor observed as she viewed a bedroom with Diane McDonald, a member of the SAFE (Support for Addicts and Families through Empowerment) Coalition.
“So much TLC went into this house,” McDonald said in agreement.
Rooms were dedicated to those who lost their battle with addiction, and that was what Bill and Paula Rollins of Wrentham did for their son Matthew. In that particular bedroom, a fishing rod hung on the wall to honor Matthew’s love for the sport.
“All this was done with love, and that makes all the difference,” Paula Rollins said of the sober house. “God is good, and He’s working through this tragedy.”
It was a donation made to SAFE in Steven Gillmeister’s name last year that prompted the coalition, along with Gillmeister’s probation officer, who approached his parents with ideas about what to do with the money. The result became “Gilly’s House,” in a nod to Steven’s nickname.
Interestingly, when Gillmeister was young, he and his childhood friend, Kyle Willis of Wrentham, used to walk by the property and imagine what they could do with the house if it were theirs.
One idea, Willis said, was a giant roller-skating rink.
“It’s absolutely amazing to see everything that’s been done,” Willis said. “I walked in the door and I just wanted to cry. It’s exactly what this community needs.”
Also present was Gillmeister’s girlfriend, Jamie Desilets of North Attleboro, who remembered Steven for his sense of humor and warm smile.
“What’s happening here is just amazing,” Desilets said. “He would be really happy.”
Gillmeister, who died in October 2016, would have celebrated his 27th birthday on Monday.
“It has truly become a house of healing for the community,” Barbara Gillmeister said just before the ribbon was officially cut to mark the opening of the sober house. “(Steven) believed everyone deserved a chance.”
State Representatives Jeff Roy, D-Norfolk, and Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, presented the Gillmeisters with a citation from the House of Representatives. Dooley praised not only the efforts of the Gillmeisters, but also the community for coming together to face the opioid epidemic.
Also present at the ribbon cutting was Chabad Rabbi Mendy Kivman of Chabad House Jewish Center in Milford who gave his blessing to the house, as well as to the Gillmeisters, through a shema prayer.
For more information, visit gillyshouse.com or email the house director, Chris Sachs, at chris@gillyshouse.com.

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