On Friday, May 11th just after 2 pm, an SUV accidentally drove into the front wall of the Riverside Outpatient Center in Upton, Massachusetts, stopping about half way into Mary Kuchta’s office. Mary, a long-time clinician, was with a client at the time, but the two of them, while trapped, were somehow unhurt.
The scene was chaotic, with everyone in the building unsure of what had happened, the extent of the damage, or any possible injuries. Marcel Descheneaux, Assistant Program Director of the outpatient center, and Wayne Smith of Facilities happened to be near the point of impact and immediately responded to the scene, helping to calm people directly impacted by the crash. Marcel then set to managing this extraordinary occurrence until emergency personnel arrived.
Over thirty people were in the building–a combination of staff, people served, and clinicians. Two therapists, Hillary Rioux and Tamar Naor, went door to door to make sure everyone was okay and calmly helped with evacuation. “People stepped out of their comfort zones and tapped into resources that they didn’t know they had,” said Julie Greiner-Ferris, Director of the Outpatient Center.
First responders from three towns quickly arrived and had to extract Mary and the person she was counseling from Mary’s office by cutting a hole in an adjacent wall. At one point, there was a little levity as Mary’s mudpuppies (her beloved aquatic creatures) were rescued from the rubble and passed to a firefighter who placed them in a water-filled bucket.
Not only did the Upton staff come together, but members from the entire Riverside community quickly arrived to help. Senior staff, as well as the Vice President of Facilities, Chris Burke and COO Marsha Medalie, zoomed over from the administrative offices in Dedham. Chris and his team quickly started working with the police, EMS team, and building inspector. “It’s amazing nobody was hurt. After we assessed the damage, our number one priority was to get the building back up and running so people could continue receiving services.”
The next Monday, contractors arrived first thing to rebuild the offices that had been damaged. The Riverside IT department delivered new computers so the clinicians could continue their work. And Jean Greiff from the Riverside Trauma Center visited the facility to help the Upton staff talk through and process the event.
Thanks to the dedicated work of the Facilities Department, the offices were reconstructed within three weeks, and a remarkable five weeks later, the building is back to normal. Walls have been rebuilt, new carpets installed, and the mudpuppies wiggle contentedly in their new aquarium. The Center never had to cancel appointment. But there’s also a new sense of camaraderie that can occur after a close call. Said Julie, “What happened was an extraordinary example of people coming together, and it makes me feel great to be a part of this team.”
~Scott M. Bock, Founder and President/CEO