Overcoming addiction: Day treatment center opens in Northampton

Empower Health Group CEO Matty O’Malley on Monday at the new day treatment center on Hawley Street in Northampton. The clinic, which opened in February, will hold a grand opening on Thursday.

Empower Health Group CEO Matty O’Malley on Monday at the new day treatment center on Hawley Street in Northampton. The clinic, which opened in February, will hold a grand opening on Thursday. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

Empower Health Group’s new addiction and mental health day treatment center  on Hawley Street in Northampton.

Empower Health Group’s new addiction and mental health day treatment center on Hawley Street in Northampton. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

A meeting room inside Empower Health Group’s new day treatment center on Hawley Street in Northampton.

A meeting room inside Empower Health Group’s new day treatment center on Hawley Street in Northampton. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

Empower Health Group’s new day treatment center in Northampton.

Empower Health Group’s new day treatment center in Northampton. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

Empower Health Group CEO Matty O’Malley on Monday at the new Day Treatment center in Northampton.

Empower Health Group CEO Matty O’Malley on Monday at the new Day Treatment center in Northampton. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

Empower Health Group CEO Matty O’Malley, left, and Shelby Klug, director of operations and program director, at the new day treatment center in Northampton on Monday.

Empower Health Group CEO Matty O’Malley, left, and Shelby Klug, director of operations and program director, at the new day treatment center in Northampton on Monday. PHOTOS FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

Empower Health Group’s new day treatment center in Northampton includes this dining area.

Empower Health Group’s new day treatment center in Northampton includes this dining area. FOR THE GAZETTE/DAN LITTLE

A physical therapy room at Empower Health Group’s new day treatment center on Hawley Street in Northampton.

A physical therapy room at Empower Health Group’s new day treatment center on Hawley Street in Northampton.

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 06-19-2024 4:34 PM

Modified: 06-20-2024 9:12 AM


NORTHAMPTON — When Empower Health Group opened its new day treatment program in Northampton in February, it didn’t take long for people to come knocking.

“We had 25 or 30 clients within two weeks,” company CEO Matthew O’Malley said.

O’Malley, who said he has opened six other treatment facilities in eastern Massachusetts, said he saw a need for addiction treatment services in this area. He also decided to move his young family out here and plans to stay.

“This is my last rodeo,” he said.

Licensed by the state’s Bureau of Substance Addiction Services and accredited by The Joint Commission, Empower offers three levels of treatment, from outpatient to partial hospitalization. Its offices are in a tastefully remodeled brick building on Hawley Street.

Clients in the partial hospitalization program are there five hours a day, five days a week, while still living at home or at a sober house. Services can include individual therapy, group therapy, group activities and outside services such as yoga and art therapy, O’Malley said. Lunch is catered every day.

That may last 30 to 45 days before clients are ready for the intensive outpatient program, which run four hours a day, three days a week. The least intensive step is the outpatient level. There’s also an evening program, which can be useful for college students and others who cannot easily take time off during the day.

The full curriculum runs 90 to 120 days, O’Malley said.

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Empower has signed contracts with several major health care providers, he said, and is in the process of going in-network with Veterans Affairs.

“A lot of times insurance covers everything,” he said.

People may be referred to Empower in a number of ways, and the clinic has its own outreach team.

“We make sure people know how to find us,” O’Malley said.

He praised the welcome the company has received from Northampton officials including the mayor, the district attorney and court officials.

Lived experience

Compassion and caring are two of the keys for people seeking to overcome their addictions.

“We know what matters,” said O’Malley, who like most of Empower’s staffers is in long-term recovery himself. “Extra effort is what matters.”

That includes checking in on clients when they’re away from the program, and allowing people seeking admission to call any time of day or night.

“Our clients are here because they want to be,” O’Malley said. “They can leave at any time. They know they have a crew that cares about them.”

Guiding the curriculum and overseeing the clinical aspect of the operation is Chief Clinical Officer Sarah Allen Benton, a mental health and addiction counselor who said she began to specialize in addiction treatment after the publication of her first book, “Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic.”

She also has been part of many start-ups, including two at McLean Hospital in Belmont, but she sees her role with Empower as more streamlining and fine-tuning the clinical service structure. She supervises the clinical staff and listens to their concerns.

Empower at this time has three clinical staff members, though Benton said she would like to have five. Other staff members include program director of operations Shelby Klug and alumni director Bryan Silkey.

Benton said the alumni initiative helps to keep clients connected.

“Addiction is a disease of disconnection,” she said. “In the first year it’s so crucial to have as much support as possible.”

While the program has room for more, O’Malley said they’re trying to keep the number of clients to 45 or 50 at most. That allows the staff to give individuals their undivided attention.

“Our goal is to make this one time and the last time,” he said.

O’Malley, who said he went through 57 treatment centers, acknowledged that it took him some time to realize “I only had to do it right once.”

Benton noted that it can be a good thing for staff to have firsthand experience of what the clients are going through, but there can be drawbacks, too.

“I think that makes us more vulnerable to compassion fatigue,” she said.

Encouraging staff to care for themselves, set limits and avoid burnout is an important piece of supervision, she said.

Empower will be holding an open house Thursday, from 11 to noon at its offices at 19 Hawley St.

James Pentland can be reached at jpentland@gazettenet.com.