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Local News

July 5, 2013

Lahey to sever ties with programs

Lahey Health has relinquished operation of four programs on the North Shore that help people deal with rape, HIV, AIDS, drug abuse and mental illness.

The programs, based in Beverly, Peabody and Lynn, have been taken over by other agencies as of July 1 and will continue to provide services, said Kevin Norton, CEO of Lahey Health Behavioral Services.

The programs include Prism, which provided free HIV counseling and testing in Beverly; Pioneer House of Peabody for people with mental illness; the North Shore Rape Crisis Center in Lynn; and Healthy Streets, a Lynn-based outreach program for injection drug users.

Lahey is also looking for a new provider to take over Serenity Supportive Housing in Topsfield, according to Norton. Serenity provides housing for people who are HIV positive.

Norton said Lahey Health wanted to continue operating Pioneer House but was out-bid for the contract by another agency. Lahey decided to stop operating the other programs in order to focus on “core services” under health care reform, he said.

Norton said the programs have “incredible value” to the community but might be “better operated by a different provider.”

“Prevention and outreach is typically done by somebody other than members of the health care community,” he said. “The question is, do you want to try to be all things to all people or specialize and be better than everybody else?”

Prism, on Rantoul Street in Beverly for 16 years, closed its doors on June 27. In addition to HIV counseling and testing, the program offered youth social and support groups, free condoms and safe-sex information, and outreach at clubs, bars and parties to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The Prism program has been taken over by the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers, an agency based in Cambridge.

Kirsten Freni, a counselor at Prism, said the program’s move out of Beverly will leave a gap in services for the gay and lesbian community, particularly for younger people.

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