Asked if there were any other spaces inside the hospital that could accommodate AA meetings without disrupting hospital meetings during the week, O’Connor said there were none.
An AA member, who only would identify herself as Janice M. due to confidentiality issues, said Anna Jaques’ stance is typical of past experiences with hospitals.
“People/establishments get tired of us making messes/noise, etc., and they don’t understand how much the meetings are needed — but fortunately, in this area, there are plenty going on to make up for the closed-down ones. Unfortunately, this is the kind of stuff that has happened for years in AA,” the AA member wrote in an email.
The list of other venues hosting AA meetings in the area is extensive with meetings throughout the week scheduled at Newburyport’s Unitarian Church, St. Paul’s Church and Immaculate Conception, among others. Since the announcement, O’Connor has yet to field a complaint from AA members, she said.
The move has generated some controversy with a Salisbury psychiatric nurse practitioner calling O’Connor’s decision shameful.
Terry Lee Harrington, in a letter to the editor he confirmed writing, said the decision reinforces belief in the community that alcoholism isn’t a disease, further stigmatizing those afflicted with it.
“Is this the message Anna Jaques wants to give to the community?” Harrington wrote.
O’Connor quickly dispelled Harrington’s notion, saying the hospital fully recognized the damaging impacts of alcoholism.
“This is not a cosmic question about alcoholism, this is one question about the use of the only meeting space we have,” O’Connor said.