Manchester aldermen detox discussion turns tense

May 18—Tense moments from an earlier discussion on Manchester's contract with a firm to provide detox services to homeless individuals seeking help with drug and alcohol abuse spilled over into this week's Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, with some officials questioning the relationship between the city's homelessness director and GateHouse Treatment.

Alderman Bill Barry said there is "obvious friction" between the city — specifically Director of Homeless Initiatives Adrienne Beloin — and Amanda Robichaud, GateHouse Director of Northeast Development.

Now in the second month of an agreement to pay GateHouse to help homeless individuals in Manchester suffering from opioid abuse, Robichaud said 31 people were helped through the program, with only three declining further treatment and more than half either working with nonprofits for additional treatment or enrolling in a form of long-term care.

"The numbers we saw last night were fabulous, they were off the chart," said Barry. "I think we should continue going forward, and hope that both entities will get together and iron out their differences. We need to get along. It's important that everyone works as hard as they can to make this work.

"In the long run the only way this city is going to get healthy is if we get these people into treatment."

In her first board meeting after being elected last week, Ward 6 Alderman Crissy Kantor made a motion to have Robichaud present information on GateHouse's detox program directly to the full board instead of to Beloin, who then reports the information to the aldermen.

The motion was tabled over fears it may require renegotiating the city's deal with GateHouse.

Beloin disagreed with Kantor's motion, saying the city's contract with GateHouse "absolutely" requires oversight, because the city shouldn't provide money without those funds being monitored or audited.

"Essentially what you're asking for is that you give money to the vendor, a vendor that does not work for the city, and that they come and report numbers to you in whatever format they want to provide it," Beloin said. "And you have a resident expert in behavioral health on your director's board who is overqualified to monitor this project."

"There appears to be a complication," Alderman Pat Long said to Beloin. "It's not you, it's not GateHouse, we're just trying to get our hands around this. Now I'm hearing that GateHouse would give a report, and you would give a report that would be different. This board would just like to be updated."

Beloin responded with, "It's not that complicated."

"Amanda's not giving me information that's requested, and I can't report anything different than what she's giving me. She has to give me the full information, and then I can report on their successes."

"This is very exciting that people are being taken off the street," Long said. "I've been here for 14 years and I've never heard that. It doesn't mean it wasn't happening, I just never heard it."

The discussion came after members of the Aldermanic Committee on Accounts, Enrollment and Revenue Administration voted 3-1 earlier in the night to table an ordinance establishing a new Housing Stability Department, which Beloin would head up.

"You guys wanted to give her a whole department? No. She's overqualified for the whole city," said Alderman Joe Kelly Levasseur sarcastically.