Grant targets growing teen substance use

PITTSFIELD – A $50,000 donation to the Brien Center’s Patrick Miller Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Program will enable the local organization to continue to expand county-wide efforts to reduce the alarming opioid and addiction crisis among Berkshire teens.

The donor also hopes that it will serve as a catalyst to encourage other individuals and organizations to support this and other Brien Center programs, as well.

“When it comes to substance use disorders, the Brien Center is it,” said Robin McGraw of South Egremont, Senior Director of the Donald C. McGraw Foundation which awarded the Brien Center one of its many community grants. “Fortunately for the Berkshires, the Brien Center does excellent work with the resources they have. But funding from the state is not enough to tackle the scope of the crisis we’re facing. Our job as a responsible community is to help the Brien Center grow.”

Eliminating opioids and other addictions from society is unrealistic in the short term, McGraw continued. The more practical solution is strong intervention programs in the schools, followed by evidence-based treatment and recovery programs targeted to teens.

“We need to get to the adolescent population sooner,” McGraw said. “And we need to make Berkshire County a strong treatment and recovery community – a place where it is easier to get treatment than it is to get high. Right now, the opposite is the case.”

And that’s the goal of the Brien Center’s Patrick Miller Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Program. This highly acclaimed community-based program provides education, prevention, intervention, screening and outpatient services to address substance use and abuse among Berkshire County youth.

The program has also received generous contributions from the Josephine and Louise Crane Foundation in 2017 and 2018, totaling $ 150,000

“For youth with substance use disorders, The Brien Center’s treatment team provides intensive addiction treatment including comprehensive assessment, individual  therapy, family intervention, and A-CRA (Adolescent Community Reinforcement Approach), an evidenced based  behavioral treatment for alcohol and other substance use disorders that helps youth, young adults, and families improve access to interpersonal and environmental reinforcers to reduce or stop substance use,” said M. Christine Macbeth, ACSW, LICSW, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Brien Center. “Our program includes a psychiatrist and licensed counselors who are trained in both mental health and addiction treatment, with a specialty in adolescents. The success of the program is demonstrated in community surveys documenting a reduction in adolescent substance use in communities where the program is present.”

Macbeth said donations from both the Crane and McGraw foundations are crucial to the continued expansion of the program.

According to James Mucia, LICSW, Division Director of Child and Adolescent Services Division at the Brien Center, 1722 teens received evidence-based curriculum through the organization’s Patrick Miller Youth Substance Abuse Program in 2017. A total of 1412 of these teens participated in post-outcome measures which determined that 82% demonstrated improvements on substance use knowledge and risky behaviors.

“These outcomes indicate that the program is highly effective for teens in reducing and preventing substance abuse,” he said. “Nonetheless, referrals to our services are increasing and we need additional staff to meet this significant need. Studies conclude that youth at the beginning of their addiction cycles are very resistant to attend clinic services and are very unlikely to seek them out. That’s why it’s so important for Brien staff to be present in schools, the community and even in families’ homes. None of this is possible without grants like this one from the Donald C. McGraw Foundation.”

Robin McGraw said his foundation supports the Brien Center because their work is focused on the community’s most pressing needs, and because the organization’s results indicate that their evidence-based outreach and services work.

“But they are up against it all of the time because of where the majority of their funding comes from,” he continued, referring to state allocations that fail to adequately reimburse the Brien Center for the cost of their services. “Substance abuse among teens in Berkshire County is a very serious problem. If people and organizations want to do something to help, they should support the Brien Center.”


The Brien Center is a community-based, non-profit agency providing behavioral health and addiction treatment services throughout Berkshire County. As the county’s largest provider of services, The Brien Center serves about 10,000 children, teens, and adults each year. For more information visit,


The Donald C. McGraw foundation is a family fund created by the late Donald C. McGraw – President and CEO of McGraw Hill – once one of the largest publishing houses in the world. The foundation is administered by his grandsons, and is focused on advancing community efforts in health, education and human services.