House of Affirmation to Close Future of Outpatient Mental Health

By Jewel Bradstreet
Worcester Telegram & Gazette
October 4, 1989

The House of Affirmation, a Hopedale-based, non-profit corporation that provides mental health care to clergy, will be closing gradually during the next year, according to the agency's lawyer, Samuel R. DeSimone.

DeSimone said that last week the House of Affirmation's board of trustees voted to close all the corporation's residential programs by Dec. 31. The disposition of House of Affirmation property and the future of its outpatient programs have yet to be decided, he said.DeSimone said he did not believe the scandal that erupted in 1987 when the Rev. Thomas Kane, a House of Affirmation founder and former president, was accused of financial misconduct, had anything to do with the board's decision to close the agency.

However, last August, Sister Suzanne Kearney, Father Kane's replacement, said referrals to the House of Affirmation had dropped off at centers all over the country once the allegations became public. She also said she believed the scandal affected the organization's ability to attract qualified psychotherapists.


Yesterday, Sister Kearney referred all questions to Bishop George E. Rueger, House of Affirmation board of members chairman. His office referred questions to DeSimone.

The two residential centers slated to close by the end of this year are in Northbridge and Webster Groves, Mo. A third residential center in Hopedale was converted to central administration for the corporation last year. DeSimone said that although there has been no formal vote, he expects that all operations will cease eventually.

By the closing time for the residential centers, all patients being treated in them should be finished with their programs, he said. Outpatient services would continue to be available for an as-yet undefined period of time into next year.

The corporation still has other obligations that must be taken care of before all its outpatient services can cease, he said.

"You can't just put up a sign "Closed Tomorrow,' " he said.

The organization has outpatient centers in Boston, Clearwater, Fla., and Middletown, Conn.


The closing was prompted by a decline in new patients in the residential programs, he said. Many of the patients in the outclient programs are getting followup help after residential treatment.

DeSimone investigated the allegations against Father Kane in 1987 for the House of Affirmation. He found at least some of the allegations to be true and recommended that the House of Affirmation seek to recover monetary damages, rather than file civil or criminal charges.

Father Kane agreed last October to pay a monetary settlement, DeSimone said, the amount of which was not disclosed under terms of the settlement.

Father Kane also was barred from any association with the House of Affirmation, the agency he helped found 19 years ago.

The House of Affirmation's express mission is to help clergy who are suffering from job stress and other psychological problems. While it has focused primarily on Roman Catholic priests and nuns, the outpatient programs have been opened to lay people.


The organization owns historic houses in the Whitinsville section of Northbridge and in Hopedale. In Northbridge, where the corporation was based until last year, the residential center is housed in the Hill Street mansion once owned by industrialist Chester Lasell, who was connected to the Whitin family and the former Whitin Machine Works. The property is historically known as Oakhurst.

In Hopedale, the corporation's headquarters is located in the former home of the Draper family at 11 Williams St. The Drapers ran the former Draper Corp., the business that built Hopedale.

DeSimone said no decision has yet been made about the disposal of these historically important properties.


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