BOSTON – In a new Boston Herald op-ed, Councilor and mayoral candidate Andrea Campbell decried the City’s failure to address the growing public health and safety crisis at Mass Ave and Melnea Cass Blvd and surrounding neighborhoods, and laid out her own plans to address this crisis as mayor.
Despite worsening conditions for individuals suffering from substance use disorder, mental illness, and homelessness, and demands for action from local residents, businesses, and advocates, Acting Mayor Janey has yet to take any substantive action or release a plan, and cancelled the last two meetings of the Mayor’s Mass & Cass Task Force.
“If ever there was a moment for leadership, it is now. This cannot wait,” said Councilor Campbell. “People are dying in increasing numbers every day, either from opioid overdoses or from incidents that escalate with violence. As more of our downtown, Roxbury and South End neighborhoods see this crisis worsen, there is a deepening frustration and fear among residents and local businesses that more people will continue to suffer or even die, and that these neighborhoods will never come back.”
In January, Campbell was the first mayoral candidate to release a plan for Mass & Cass. Campbell’s plan outlines three key strategies:
Appoint a public health professional to serve as Mass & Cass chief, someone who would be exclusively responsible for coordinating the city’s public health and public safety response while building and implementing a plan to decentralize services from the area. A city chief coordinating internal city employees and external stakeholders will ensure all stakeholders are sharing data and working from the same plan to carry out an effective and impactful response.
Establish a dedicated first responder unit with the expectation that these responders — including mental health counselors, recovery specialists, community health workers and first responders — would work collaboratively, with mayoral oversight and leadership, to de-escalate violence and provide residents access to supportive housing, recovery services and other necessary resources.
Reactivate Long Island’s recovery campus, which is critical to solving the larger issues of substance use and homelessness in Boston, through ferry service to the island. Rebuilding the bridge is a long-term goal, but using ferry service would jumpstart use of the island now.
Read Campbell’s op-ed here.