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A donation in any amount would be greatly appreciated during this time of need.


Please send a check to:

South Middlesex Foundation:

c/o New Beginnings

 750 Winter Street

Framingham, MA 01702




  

A Comprehensive Wellness Education Initiative for Schools, Parents and the Community


HERE ARE A FEW OF THE MANY NEWS ARTICLES WRITTEN ABOUT NEW BEGINNINGS

Finding a New Beginning

By John Hilliard,Thu Nov 08, 2007, 11:18 AM EST, Framingham Tab Newspaper

Bill Phillips

- For Bill Phillips, battling substance abuse as a teen and young man cost him friends and put him on the wrong road in life.

But overcoming those struggles gave him an insight with kids facing the same problems — and how to help kids survive them."You can get your life back and become a better person," said Phillips, Framingham's truant officer, who has spent 20 years working with at-risk youth across the state. "You try to get them into a situation where they can get healthy," he said.

That program — "New Beginnings" — has been seen by an estimated quarter million students over the past two decades, and offers kids substance abuse efforts, violence prevention and halting other risky behavior. Recently, Phillips, 62, was honored with the Citizen in Action award by Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone during this year's School Safety Conference in Woburn. The award is given to someone who lives or works in Middlesex County and helps make a difference in communities by promoting health or safety. The honor is given to school workers or law enforcement officials. A statement from the Middlesex DA's office credited Phillips as "a truly devoted public servant" and said he "has had a phenomenal impact on those he has served." That influence with kids, and his understanding of their struggles, was hard won.

"The kids we're talking about, I was one of them," said Phillips, whose office is housed inside Keefe Tech.

John "Jack" Wescott, Keefe's principal until his retirement 10 years ago, said Phillips has made himself available to helping people over the course of their lives."I've heard from many students who said Billy was like a second father to them," said Wescott, who called Phillips a role model and friend. A Framingham High graduate, Phillips was a gifted athlete in school, but had a trouble home life with an alcoholic father. Phillips himself had his first drink when he was a sixth-grader. He got into fights and had run-ins with the law, but under the guidance of a now-retired Framingham District Court judge, Robert Campion, Phillips cleaned himself up at age 35 after a visit to Watertown High School. Campion often visited schools to discourage students from substance abuse, but on one trip to Watertown High, he brought along Phillips to talk about his own experiences in front of 700 kids and parents.

"I had to talk, and for the first time in my life I heard myself saying it," said Phillips. He started crying during the session, and a few parents consoled him, he said. Afterwards, he decided to get his life back on track. Campion said Phillips was crucial to help run the program for at-risk kids.

"He's shown them a way to change their lives," said Campion, who was a judge at Framingham District Court until his retirement in 1998. "To save lives, it's not an easy thing to do."

Phillips said some kids don't take substance abuse programs seriously, thinking no one understands those kids and the problems they face. Phillips will often share his own experiences with them. The result? "They listen more," he said. He also encourages students to speak about their own struggles. "Kids listen to kids ... they know deep inside what they're doing isn't right. They want to know what happens," said Phillips. He's happy with his life — he's married now, with four children — and is doing the work he loves.

Phillips said he was talking to a friend once about his own life, and Phillips told that friend he wanted to join the clergy growing up."I wanted to be a priest," said Phillips. "And the person said, "You're doing the same work."

___________________________________________________________________________________

KATHI MEYER IS A MOTHER ON A MISSION

Ashland High School

By Kelsey Abbruzzese / Daily News staff / MetroWest Daily News, Posted Aug 26, 2009 @ 12:41 AM

ASHLAND —

School officials have invited Plainville resident Kathi Meyer, whose 17-year-old daughter, Taylor, died after a night of drinking, to speak at their substance abuse awareness program in September.

Meyer has outlined her story to 30 schools since January, telling parents to talk to their children about substance abuse and telling students they're not invincible. Taylor Meyer drowned in a Norfolk swamp last October after drinking at a homecoming party.

"Kids come up to me and say, 'You're just like my mom. I could never leave my mom like this,"' Meyer said yesterday. "They get it that it wasn't like Taylor was a rebel child. She was just like anybody else."

Meyer and Bill Phillips of New Beginnings in Framingham are scheduled to speak to high school students during their lunch periods on Sept. 14. She and Phillips will later give a presentation to parents and other members of the public after a dinner at the school.

In the past, the event has drawn over 300 people, Ashland High School Principal Mike Tempesta said . He and other school staffers are expecting many more this year to hear the speakers' stories.

The event is mandatory for student-athletes, their parents and coaches. But Ashland officials believe Meyer's and Phillips' message can extend beyond those groups.

"The message is profound," said new athletic director Jim Adams, who said he saw Phillips' presentation when he worked as an assistant principal in Millbury. Phillips founded the New Beginnings programs in 1985 to promote awareness about alcoholism and other addictions, with an emphasis on teenagers. "It's a benefit for all students to hear, and it's the best message to hear heading into the season," Adams said.

Meyer said she's not familiar with Ashland students, but that she knows many towns are struggling with underage drinking.

At the arraignment for a group of teenagers about a month after Taylor's death, Meyer took back the pink bracelets she gave them memorializing her daughter. She said they didn't deserve them.

"I think every town knows what kids are doing but they don't think bad things are happening. I'm proof that they can," Meyer said.

During Meyer's presentation, a slideshow of photos run behind her: Taylor with her friends, Taylor with her family, Taylor putting an angel atop the Christmas tree. She tells students to watch out for each other and give them the perspective that what happened to Taylor could happen to them. To parents, Meyer tells them what happened that Friday night and what she wishes she did differently.

"Taylor and I had a very open relationship," she said. "But it blew my mind, the things I found out after the fact. You just don't know."

Meyer hasn't been back to speak at Taylor's school, King Philip Regional High School in Wrentham, but she said she will continue to speak about the events surrounding her daughter's death.

"Otherwise, she's just some poor kid who drowned in the woods after drinking. There's no way that's who she was," Meyer said.

"It's something I'm going to have to do forever, unfortunately," Meyer said. "I still don't know how the hell I do it."

___________________________________________________________________________________

A Second Chance For New Beginnings Drug Awareness Program

Bill Phillips, who runs the New Beginnings program,

sits at his office at Keefe Tech in Framingham

By Scott O'Connell/Daily News staff / The MetroWest Daily News / Posted Oct 17, 2010 @ 10:56 PM

The fate of New Beginnings had been looking grim for a while.

"Every year, (our funding) went down," said Bill Phillips, founder and director of the drug awareness program for young adults.

That didn't make the news last year that the state was cutting 80 percent of his budget any easier to accept.

"They called me up and apologized," Phillips said. "But they said it was over."

The announcement came in the middle of the fiscal year, after Phillips had spent nearly all of his funding for New Beginnings, which offers drug awareness programs, interventions, counseling and other services to families, schools and juvenile courts around the state.

"I had nothing at the time," he said.

But just when Phillips was thinking of packing it in, he ran into Joe Shay, who would change everything.

"I told him I might have to stop," Phillips said. "He said, 'Let me see what I can do.' Next thing I know, I had checks coming in."

For the last two months, Shay has led a fundraising blitz across the region that has sustained New Beginnings, which Phillips and his staff operate out of an office at Keefe Technical High School.

The endeavor was not Shay's forte - he owns and operates a rock quarry in Milford - but the Southborough resident said he "had to do it...I just know what a big impact he's had on me."

Shay and Phillips originally met through Shay's brother, Mike, a friend of Phillips. Five years ago, Mike died after battling addiction.

The experience of losing a brother taught Shay how important Phillips's work is.

"It's such a big deal today," he said. "People don't realize how much drugs and alcohol are affecting the next generation."

Since he started New Beginnings 25 years ago, Phillips said substance abuse among teens has become more prevalent, and their choice of drugs has become more dangerous.

"Kids are getting caught with methamphetamine," he said.

"These days it's just getting worse and worse," Shay said. "Now it's prescription medication, and kids doing heroin and overdosing."

There's always a need for a service like New Beginnings, said Phillips. He estimated the program does between 350 and 400 school visits each year, and just as many interventions.

"I get calls from 9 in the morning to 7 at night," he said.

After he speaks at assemblies, Phillips said he is often approached by families who share their own stories of substance abuse.

"We didn't think (New Beginnings) would be this big," he said.

But as the program's stature rose, its government aid shrank over time. From a funding apex of $250,000 - when the program was fully funded by the state - annual cuts trimmed Phillips's budget down to just $75,000 two years ago.

After his state aid was nearly eliminated this past winter, Phillips made do at first by using his own money to fund the program. Though the future seemed bleak, Phillips said he didn't see any choice other than to keep working.

"Courts would keep sending me people, a kid at school would ask me to help him," he said. "I didn't know what else to do."

Without programs like New Beginnings, many students would be at risk, said Phillips.

"You're going to see an increase in addiction," he said. "The kids will be out there in a haze, making decisions."

But by the time Phillips bumped into Shay a few months ago, New Beginnings was close to the end.

"I said to him I might have to start driving a truck, because it was over," he said.

Shay said he understood Phillips's predicament. "He's one of those people who doesn't want to ask anyone for money," he said. "He's happy to just donate his time."

So Shay did the legwork for him, and set out to find friends, businesses and other individuals who could donate.

"I've just been pounding the pavement," he said, "talking to people about the program and what it's about."

The response has mostly been positive, Shay said. "I usually leave with a check in hand."

The donations have helped keep New Beginnings afloat, albeit with some reduction of services.

"I can't believe some of the stuff that's happened," Phillips said. "(Shay) hasn't stopped."

Today, the fundraising continues with a golf tournament benefit at the Framingham Country Club. Shay said he continues to network on Phillips' behalf with other substance abuse counselors around the state as well.

The work is well worth the effort, he said, especially as he raises his own daughters.

"I want them to see me doing the right thing," said Shay. "I think it's the greatest cause in the world."

Phillips has other reasons to continue his work.

"I get letters from families all the time," he said. "Those keep you going."

To find out more about New Beginnings or to donate, visit www.nbprograms.com.

(Scott O'Connell can be reached at 508-626-4449 or soconnel@cnc.com.)

Copyright 2010 The MetroWest Daily News. Some rights reserved

___________________________________________________________________________________

Lawmakers may ban bath salts in Massachusetts

By Jessica Trufant, TheMetroWest Daily News, June 3, 2012

On the street they’re called things like Cloud Nine and Bliss, but there’s a world of suffering and even death for the people who take the designer drugs commonly known as bath salts.

The substances are as addictive and dangerous as the illicit drugs they mimic, said Bill Phillips of New Beginnings awareness programs in Framingham. They can be snorted, smoked, injected or ingested orally.

According to Phillips, one bath salts user told him that the drug is similar to LSD or PCP, but more powerful.

“You hallucinate and go into a drift where you lose consciousness and go into a different atmosphere almost,” Phillips said. “It does horrendous things to you internally.”

At least three people in the Bangor, Maine, area have died as a result of using bath salts, Dr. Jonnathan Busko, an emergency room doctor at Eastern Maine Medical Center, told the Bangor Daily News in December.

Several media outlets have reported that a man dubbed “Miami Zombie” may have been high on bath salts when he allegedly chewed off the face of a homeless man last Saturday. Rudy Eugene, 31, was shot and killed by police after refusing commands to stop the attack.

On Beacon Hill, lawmakers are reviewing a bill, passed by the Senate in February, to ban the possession, manufacturing and sale of bath salts in Massachusetts. The bill will label bath salts as a Class C substance, or a hallucinogen, if passed by the Judiciary Committee and signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick.

The charge of possession of a Class C substance, first offense, in Massachusetts results in a one-year license suspension, a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to one year in prison.

Those charged with possession with the intent to distribute Class C face up to 5 years in prison and a minimum $500 fine for the first offense, and a minimum sentence of 2 and a half years for each offense thereafter.

Thirty-eight states have outlawed the sale and possession of bath salts, said state Rep. George Ross, R-Attleboro, who sponsored the bill.

Bath salts, called substituted cathinones by the National Drug Intelligence Center, are fast gaining popularity. Bath salts contain several chemical compounds that are cheaper than drugs that are said to produce similar effects.

Today it’s legal in Massachusetts to possess bath salts, which are sold in convenience stores, smoke shops and online with no age requirements.

On the street they’re called things like Cloud Nine and Bliss, but there’s a world of suffering and even death for the people who take the designer drugs commonly known as bath salts.

The substances are as addictive and dangerous as the illicit drugs they mimic, said Bill Phillips of New Beginnings awareness programs in Framingham. They can be snorted, smoked, injected or ingested orally.

According to Phillips, one bath salts user told him that the drug is similar to LSD or PCP, but more powerful.

“You hallucinate and go into a drift where you lose consciousness and go into a different atmosphere almost,” Phillips said. “It does horrendous things to you internally.”

At least three people in the Bangor, Maine, area have died as a result of using bath salts, Dr. Jonnathan Busko, an emergency room doctor at Eastern Maine Medical Center, told the Bangor Daily News in December.

Several media outlets have reported that a man dubbed “Miami Zombie” may have been high on bath salts when he allegedly chewed off the face of a homeless man last Saturday. Rudy Eugene, 31, was shot and killed by police after refusing commands to stop the attack.

On Beacon Hill, lawmakers are reviewing a bill, passed by the Senate in February, to ban the possession, manufacturing and sale of bath salts in Massachusetts. The bill will label bath salts as a Class C substance, or a hallucinogen, if passed by the Judiciary Committee and signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick.

The charge of possession of a Class C substance, first offense, in Massachusetts results in a one-year license suspension, a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to one year in prison.

Those charged with possession with the intent to distribute Class C face up to 5 years in prison and a minimum $500 fine for the first offense, and a minimum sentence of 2 and a half years for each offense thereafter.

Thirty-eight states have outlawed the sale and possession of bath salts, said state Rep. George Ross, R-Attleboro, who sponsored the bill.

Bath salts, called substituted cathinones by the National Drug Intelligence Center, are fast gaining popularity. Bath salts contain several chemical compounds that are cheaper than drugs that are said to produce similar effects.

Today it’s legal in Massachusetts to possess bath salts, which are sold in convenience stores, smoke shops and online with no age requirements.

There are a number of street names for the drug, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, including Ivory Wave and Vanilla Sky.

Ross said he hopes the bill will pass this summer.

“I constantly get phone calls from people waiting for it to pass. … It’s not a real complex issue. Ban bath salts. Simple,” he said.

The DEA last October issued an emergency one-year ban on the three chemical stimulants used in the salts – mephedrone, 3,4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone and methylone. The DEA lists bath salts as Schedule I substances along with LSD and heroin.

The administration and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services are studying whether those chemicals should be permanently controlled, according to a DEA press release.

The use of bath salts is still a growing concern for state lawmakers despite such efforts, because the drugs can be purchased through the Internet.

In one instance, a Franklin man facing multiple drug charges told police at the time of his arrest that he and his female passenger had taken bath salts.

Franklin Police arrested 20-year-old Miklos A. Sahin-Toth after pulling his Chrysler sedan over on April 19 for driving with a flat tire, Officer Paul Guarino wrote in the police report.

“Miklos appeared to be very nervous, his eyes were bloodshot and extremely dilated,” and he could not answer simple questions, Guarino wrote.

The passenger told police Sahin-Toth ordered chemicals online and would mix and ingest them, according to the report.

Bath salts are a new synthetic drug typically in white or brown powders “believed to contain psychoactive chemicals,” Detective Christopher Baker said in the report.

David Traub, spokesman for the Norfolk district attorney’s office, said police are able to charge drivers who admit to consuming bath salts with driving under the influence of drugs.

It is not illegal to simply possess bath salts, though, so it is difficult to judge how widespread the problem is in Massachusetts.

While data on use is minimal, Jessica Pastore, spokeswoman for the Middlesex district attorney’s office, said officials are aware of the problem.

The Middlesex DA Gerald Leone has teamed with organizations, such as the Middlesex Partnership for Youth, to raise awareness, Pastore said.

The subject of abuse “is being raised in discussions at the schools as something that people should be aware of,’’ she said.

Worcester County Sheriff Lew Evangelidis talks about the substances in his program Face2Face, which he has presented to more than 22,000 students in the county. He recently brought Face2Face to Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School in Marlborough.

Evangelidis said adolescents often don’t realize how harmful substances like bath salts are because they are legal.

“There are drugs out there that sound very innocent, like bath salts, and you don’t know what’s in them. They’re very dangerous, no matter what they call them,” Evangelidis said. “People don’t understand because it sounds innocent, and you can walk into a store and buy it. It sends the absolutely wrong message that these drugs are all right.”

Evangelidis said the drug is causing a serious epidemic in Maine.

In 2011 alone, the Northern New England Poison Control Center reported 152 overdoses on bath salts in Maine. The state outlawed bath salts in September 2011, according to the New England State Police Information Network, but an average of three patients a day seek treatment in Maine for overdosing on bath salts.

Some stores have stopped selling bath salts, but Evangelidis said the bill is still critical to stop the sale of bath salts in Massachusetts.

“The reality is (stores) can and they will sell them if they can make a profit,” he said. “There is a need for legislation, because there is enough evidence to show that it is very dangerous and addictive.”

____________________________________________________________________________________

Substance Abuse Prevention Program Loses Its Funding

By John Hilliard / Fri Jul 10, 2009, 05:19 PM EDT

FRAMINGHAM - Organizers of the New Beginnings Program are asking why state funding was cut in this year's budget for the nearly 25-year-old program that works to keep kids from getting addicted to drugs, alcohol and other destructive decisions.

"We haven't lost the energy to try to keep fighting," said program director Bill Phillips, who launched New Beginnings in 1985.





Phllips said he was told about two weeks ago that grant funding was cut in the state's fiscal 2010 budget with a voicemail left by an official with the Department of Public Health's bureau of substance abuse prevention. That $200,000 grant supported the program and allowed services to be offered to local schools free of charge — and the funding cut came without warning, said Phillips.





Richard Najarian , former director of social studies in Watertown schools, has lobbied for years on Beacon Hill to get funding for the program. He holds a doctorate in education and professor at Mass Bay Community College, and is one of New Beginnings' consultants. 





Phillips and Najarian are calling on local legislators to look at ways of restoring funding for the program, but they acknowledge it will be difficult because the current year's budget — that leaves out money for New Beginnings — has already been signed by Gov. Deval Patrick.





They note that private fundraising isn't likely to raise enough to replace the grant, and charging cash-strapped school systems $500 per visit could whittle down the number of participants next year. Phillips said some schools have already scheduled visits for the coming school year, and are willing to discuss financial questions later. 



They pointed to the program's scope: it visits about 300 schools a year , runs an annual conference for health workers, teachers and other stakeholders in children's development, along with 40 meetings with faculty and 35 with parents groups throughout the year. None of these are charged for New Beginning's time, because of the state grant, but Phillips estimates the cost to schools would total at least $187,000 without the grant. 





That program has been seen by an estimated quarter million students over the past two decades, and offers kids substance abuse efforts, violence prevention and halting other risky behavior. In recent years, Phillips was honored with the Citizen in Action award by Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone.



Phillips said the Minnesota Institute of Public Health reviewed the program earlier this year, and the agency recommended that programs like New Beginnings should be replicated throughout the country.





"We are doing the sessions for zero (dollars). We give all the credit away," said Phillips. 



The grant money paid for the in-school sessions, meetings with teachers and administrators, plus for program consultants.

 A call to the department's substance abuse bureau was not returned by the press deadline.

A call to the department's substance abuse bureau was not returned by the press deadline.

____________________________________________________________________________________

A mother's perspective: Kathi Meyer talks about daughter's death

By: Kelsey Abbruzzese, DAILY NEWS STAFF/ Tue Sep 15, 2009, 07:58 AM EDT

ASHLAND - Kathi Meyer told Ashland parents that she knew what happened to her was their worst nightmare, but they needed to hear her story.

Meyer spoke at Monday's high school substance abuse awareness night, detailing the night when her 17-year-old daughter Taylor drowned in a Norfolk swamp after a drinking party.

"It's given me knowledge I wish I never had, and it's given me life experience I wish I never had to do," Meyer said.

Meyer, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone, and Bill Phillips , who directs New Beginnings in Framingham, told Ashland students about the dangers of substance abuse and outlined how parents should communicate with their children to prevent a tragedy like Meyer's. Student-athletes attended the event to fulfill their Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association requirement for awareness.

Meyer's daughter died in October 2008. After a night of drinking, Taylor and a friend got into a fight at the old Norfolk airport. Taylor began walking in the wrong direction home, her mother said. Her friends laughed because she and they were drunk, Meyer said as pictures of her daughter played in a slide show behind her.

"None of them were making good decisions because they never thought anything would happen," Meyer said, wiping away tears. "All it takes is one wrong decision."

Police found her daughter's body two days later.

Meyer said she thought after the fact what she could have done to prevent Taylor's death. One of Meyer's friends saw Taylor drunk at the homecoming football game that night and didn't call Meyer, she said. Meyer didn't call Taylor that night as she always did because she was tired after a long workweek, she said.

Meyer also said she saw respect for her daughter's privacy as important, but later found beer bottles in Taylor's garbage can. She didn't know pictures on Facebook showed numerous parties where Taylor drank, she said.

The Plainville resident urged parents to keep tabs on their children's Facebook profiles and to open the lines of communication.

"We all have to make our kids accountable," Meyer said. "Tell them it's OK if they mess up and you can talk about it in the morning. Make sure they know they can call you."

A June survey of area high school students, done by the MetroWest Community Health Care Foundation, found 39 percent of students reported drinking a month before the survey and 63 percent said they had used alcohol at some point in their lives. Those who said they recently drank five or more drinks in a row - binge drinking - was 23 percent. All numbers represented a small decrease from the last survey.

People lined up after the event to hug Meyer, who now has a tattoo of her daughter's face on her inner forearm. Students said Meyer's message hit home for them.

"She has guts," said Cathryn Wyatt, a 14-year-old freshman soccer player. Wyatt said she believed Meyer's speech could change someone's behavior to prevent what happened to Taylor.

"All it takes is just one time," Wyatt added.

Amy Uliss, whose daughter is a freshman, said she thought it was valuable to hear Meyer's perspective, both what she did and what she wishes she did.

"Seeing all those pictures, it reminds you of your own kids," the restaurant owner said.

Nathan Bach, a 16-year-old sophomore, said his heart goes out to Meyer's family.

"She pours her heart into this speech," Bach said. "It's a lot of emotions."

Two of Bach's friends died in the last year, he said, one in a car accident that involved alcohol and another who took sleeping pills and had sleep apnea.

Leone told the crowd he often sees the "tragic back end" of substance abuse, including addiction and violence, in his job as a prosecutor.

"Choices and decisions have consequences," Leone said. "Bad decisions have bad or sometimes tragic consequences. Look out for each other."

Phillips, who has spent more than 20 years working with troubled youths across the state, spoke about growing up in an alcoholic, abusive household and his own struggle with substance abuse.

He described how, as a 10-year-old, he and his younger brother hid in a closet when his father would come home. Phillips said his brother would have anxiety attacks, and Phillips had to clamp his hand over the boy's mouth to keep him quiet.

"My brother is a tough kid," Phillips said, "but he was scared to death."

Phillips told students they had to understand the damage that comes with alcoholism and substance abuse. He said 91 percent of kids under 14 who smoke marijuana go to harder drugs, and more girls under 16 are drinking than boys.

For Carly Uliss, Amy Uliss's daughter, Meyer's story had the impact to keep girls her age away from substance abuse.

"A sad person's story could change somebody's mind," she said, "more than just facts."

(Kelsey Abbruzzese can be reached at 508-626-4424 or kabbruzz@cnc.com.)

___________________________________________________________________________________

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2010

COUNSELOR SEARCHING FOR HELP

By Julia Spitz/Daily News staff

The MetroWest Daily News

Posted Feb 18, 2010 @ 12:00 AM

The former football, baseball and hockey player talks in sports metaphors.

"The ball is going to bounce."

The man with three decades of sobriety talks about doing whatever it takes.

"Somehow, I'll make this thing work, if I have to sit on the street with a cup."

But the director of the New Beginnings addiction resistance program tells it like it is.

"I'm on the last three weeks of the funding."

And frankly, Bill Phillips is worried.

If you've been a student in almost any MetroWest or Milford area high school or middle school in the past 20-plus years, you know Phillips' story. If you've been a parent of a student, you know Phillips' story. If you're a Framingham native, you know Phillips' story.

The condensed version goes something like this: Standout athlete at Framingham High, Class of '63, had tryouts with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New England Patriots, blew his chance for glory thanks to booze, worked construction, co-owned a couple of bars in town, realized his family life had slipped away, got sober, started his campaign to keep kids from following in his footsteps.

Launched in 1985, New Beginnings grew from Phillips' relationships with retired Keefe Tech Principal Jack Westcott and retired Framingham District Court Judge Robert Campion, who saw too many kids in court because of alcohol and drug addiction.

It grew because of people like Ralph Olsen, former principal at Ashland and Framingham high schools, who "told me to go after grants." It grew because kids listened to Phillips' story and realized it was their story, too.

He's talked to more than half a million students in the past 20-plus years. He's helped more than a few get their lives back on track, through his roles as an at-risk counselor at several schools and a liaison for juveniles at-risk at local courts. So far this school year, he's spoken at 75 schools and don

e 15 interventions, he said.

There are "80 to 100 kids I'm seeing right now, the schools sent me, the courts sent me," but several hundred others who might call or e-mail for "a little tune-up" if they're in danger of slipping, or who just want to let him know they're doing fine.

He tkes pride in the fact teens he's worked with have gone on to be police officers and firefighters. He takes more pride in the fact so many have gone on to have good personal relationships and happy lives.

"Most of them are doing fantastic," he said, and more than 100 keep in touch through a Facebook page his children set up. "We're trying for a reunion" in some form or another.

Not everyone would want to attend, of course.

That's part of the problem.

"You're doing something a lot of people don't want to publicize. You're helping people who have substance abuse problems.

"If I hit a home run for the Red Sox, it'd be in the papers. If I get Stevie into rehab, it's not going to be in the papers."Another part of the problem is "the economy. Priorities have changed."

With less money to parcel out, the state Department of Health won't be funding a grant for New Beginnings, he said.

"When we first started, there was a $200,000 grant. There are ebbs and tides," some years where he'd get less than half that to cover the costs of traveling to speak to students throughout the state, offering counseling to those who need it, meeting with families, going to court, and finding guest speakers and teen peers.

"Really, the program needs what it started with," but there was always enough to make it work.

"After 22, 23 years, you see the positive. It's not for naught." And though it's impossible to put a figure on "the throwing the cap up in the air at graduation" by an 18-year-old who seemed on a fast track to a life behind bars, "the money invested was money well spent."

It's "been a good run" for almost 25 years.

The problem is how to keep running.

"I've got a couple of friends who are trying to put a fundraiser together," said the man who knows just about everybody in town.

"The program will go on, by hook or crook," said the man who knows a few things about personal resolve.

"I've got to find some way to generate money," said the man who worries about what happens next.

"People I care for, this could be the end. I'm beside myself. If there's anyone out there who has a suggestion ..."

Phillips can be reached by e-mail via the New Beginnings Web site, nbprograms.com, or at his office at Keefe Tech in Framingham, 508-416-2100.

(Julia Spitz can be reached at 508-626-3968 or jspitz@cnc.com. Check metrowestdailynews.com or milforddailynews.com for the Spitz Bits blog.)

(Kelsey Abbruzzese can be reached at 508-626-4424 or kabbruzz@cnc.com.)

  



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We Stress all information is confidential.


A donation in any amount would be greatly appreciated during this time of need.

Please send a check to the South Middlesex Foundation: c/o New Beginnings

 750 Winter Street, Framingham, MA 01702.