For South End residents plagued by denizens of the “Methadone Mile,” Tuesday’s community meeting with Mayor Walsh and Marty Martinez, his chief of Health & Human Services, was reason for cautious, very cautious, optimism.
As Sean Philip Cotter reported, Walsh and other officials outlined the “Mass & Cass 2.0” plan that aims to clean up the drug- and crime-riddled area.
For neighborhood residents who have to deal with the aftermath of drug abuse, sooner would have been better. Jonathan Alves told Walsh that when he took office, “You asked for six months to make a difference and we’ve only seen it get worse.”
South End resident Roger Savonen said he’s seen four people dealing drugs on his block just this week.
“There’s addicts walking around like zombies every day,” Savonen said.
One need only drive down Melnea Cass Boulevard as a way to hook on to Tremont Street to see drug-addled souls wander into the street, eyes glazed and oblivious to traffic. Day or night.
Martinez said the mayor tasked him and other city officials with coming up with ways to decrease crime and improve drug treatment and quality of life for the area in reaction to recent incidents around Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard.
“I know it’s frustrating. Stay with us in this,” Walsh told the crowd of about 100 people.
Martinez said the plan won’t be released until a week or two from now, but it involves hiring 10 public health workers, nearly doubling the number who currently deal with linking drug addicts with services. A great start, and blissfully absent of any drug-injection sites.
The city also plans to hire four Public Works employees dedicated to cleaning up the often needle-strewn area.
“We found we need to have more people on the street,” Martinez said.
Amen to that — and much better than a draconian “Clean Sweep” that tosses wheelchairs as well as needles.
A police representative said the department is developing a plan to have bicycle officers patrol the area until midnight, and is considering other changes overnight.
But here’s the part that might have made residents of other neighborhoods drop their crullers when they read it in the Herald: Walsh said he wants to spread drug-treatment services around the city so they aren’t all clustered around the Massachusetts Avenue-Melnea Cass Boulevard area.
“Share the wealth, if you will,” Walsh said.
.Whoever makes Walsh’s appointments should clear some days for future community meetings — in whatever areas are designated recipients of those drug-treatment services. The “wealth-sharees,” if you will. Because we can’t imagine that there won’t be pushback, of the NIMBY variety.
Drug-treatment centers and the addicts who will make use of them are bound to worry those who live and work in surrounding areas.
It’s taken its toll on the South End.
Bud Larievy said people have stolen thousands of dollars from local stores.
“They are losing business,” he said.
This move to spread drug-treatment centers around the city will test Boston’s resolve to fight opioid abuse, instead of letting the worst of it be contained in the “Methadone Mile.”
The epidemic affects us all, directly and indirectly. We applaud Mayor Walsh for taking these necessary, and potentially unpopular, steps.
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