Problems of homelessness and drug abuse exploding beyond Methadone Mile, councilors say

The City Council agreed today to bring in city and state public-health experts to figure out what to do about increasing amounts of problems they say are happening from Dudley to Andrew because of the continued shutdown of the Long Island shelter and treatment programs.

The proposal for a formal hearing on the issue was sponsored by Councilors Kim Janey (Roxbury), Frank Baker (Dorchester) and Ed Flynn (South Boston, South End, Chinatown, downtown) - whose neighborhoods converge along the Methadone Mile on Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue.

Janey said the longstanding problem there has spread down Blue Hill Avenue and to Edward Everett, Andrew, Worcester and Dudley squares.

Although the city made "significant progress" getting folks into shelters and treatment after the sudden shutdown of the Long Island Bridge in 2014, more needs to be done, she said. "A walk along Melnea Cass Boulevard or through Dudley Square or on Blue Hill Avenue can be very shocking," she said, pointing to visible drug use, sexual abuse and violence.

She said a recent increase in police presence in Dudley Square has eased problems there, but added that that just pushes the problem somewhere else. "We cannot just put a Band-Aid on a bullet wound," she said, adding that in addition to police, public-health departments need to help city leaders come up with an answer.

Baker said the state and nearby communities have to do their part as well - and said he is tired of Boston becoming a dumping ground for suburban problems. "Communities are literally giving their people bus tickets to Boston," he said, adding that he will ask apparently homeless people along Dorchester Avenue where they're from and often hears places such as New Bedford and Fall River and even New Hampshire and Maine.

"We need state help," he said.

"It's critical that the bridge be re-opened," Flynn, formerly a Suffolk County probation officer who made weekly visits to the facilities there, said.

At-large councilors Annissa Essaibi George - who chairs the committee that will hold the hearing - and Ayanna Pressley, said whatever fixes are proposed need to be made with compassion for the street people themselves. Pressley said some people become homeless after they're unable to pay for particular medical care. And once on the streets, people may not want to go into shelters because they don't feel safe there, she said.

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Comments

Um, wasn't Long Island Shelter ALWAYS closed during day?

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No doubt Marty Walsh's ham-handed closure of the Long Island Bridge led to many problems, caused by Tom Menino's lack of maintenance, but weren't the homeless Long Island shelter residents always dumped on the streets of Boston every day while shelter staff made the beds and mopped the floors? Certainly a serious problem but homeless only went to Long Island to sleep. There were no significant day activities. Recovery programs were tiny, like a one room schoolhouse and not part of the shelter program.

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No

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The rehab was not closed.

There were programs for those who wanted them.

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Just not correct

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The shelter was just one of the many programs on the island. On any given day, at least a few hundred people were on the island in halfway house, detoxes, and transitional housing programs, and either stayed on the island or went to a job/internship/school off the island. The island had Boston's most comprehensive infrastructure to actually move people out of addiction and homelessness.

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I believe I read in the Spare

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I believe I read in the Spare Change newspaper back in the day that the Long Island Shelter was not one of the ones that kicked people out for the day. It was more of a long-term residential facility.

Besides that, though, it did offer addiction recovery services. And there's still a major gap in that area since Long Island closed down. I'm not sure why you're saying those were negligible.

I can imagine it's much easier to get treatment on that island, as opposed to getting treatment on methadone mile and running the gauntlet of dealers and users every time you go.

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the people left every day.

Unless it was below freezing. there were a number of programs on the island. St Andrews Detox was there and losing that place is a huge problem.

They need to shut down the

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They need to shut down the methadone clinics that just keep these people high as well as the big pharmaceutical companies that keep prescribing them benzos too keep the people looking like zombies wandering around down there. But then that would put a giant dent in their pockets so I guess that will never happen. So until the government stops being corrupt and taking money from the pharmaceutical companies who make millions off of insurance and keep feeding these people the drugs nothing will happen.

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Don"t forget the highly

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Don"t forget the highly sophisticated trafficking system that moves those same drugs into our city. A lot of the cocaine and heroin streams from NYC, Providence, Lawrence when it is picked up and driven right into safe houses in Boston's neighborhoods. The addicts are can't wait for their favorite dealer to pick up again.

Please explain

What is the evidentiary basis for your assertions here? Do you really think that ending treatment options is going to fix the problem?

I suggest you read the DPH website on addiction - you have some really strange beliefs here.

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There’s an argument to be made

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That by concentrating treatment programs like methadone clinics in areas concentrates the problems behind them.

As I hear the pronouncements of Belmont’s state senator, I wonder why that town is not known for methadone clinics or supervised use facilities. The Methadone Mile made its name because of the clinics, and judging by the reporting of this meeting, the presence of the clinics is helping no one.

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Very strange conclusion

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You need to explain where you will move the clinics.

Clinics do help people, and the fact that they concentrated here is because people like you are total jerks about them existing.

Get over your moralizing - we need more clinics and they need to be everywhere.

Huh?

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I never said clinics are bad. I think they are a great idea. Help addicts ween themselves and function in society. I lived next door to a clinic when I formed at BU.

Good projection, though.

My point, which is a valid one, is that concentrating clinics in a geographically concentrated area doesn’t help those fighting heroin addiction and doesn’t help those who live or work in the area. The only group it helps is pushers.

Always Look On The Bright Side of Life

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It's clear when you look at methadone treatment centers you are not looking at them correctly. The "Methadone Mile" looks bad to an uneducated viewer because you see all of the bad examples of non-functional addiction concentrated in one place. And by having the clinics concentrated in one area it gives drug pushers a ready market to prey on those addicts when they are most vulnerable. It would be better to spread them out evenly over the entire state, so towns [like Belmont] can have their own treatment center.

But methadone [in conjunction with counseling] is also a proven method of weaning people off of opioid addiction. What you are seeing, hanging about on the street in a stupor, are people not being treated, or lapsing despite being treated. They are hanging out in the area because the dealers are hanging out in the area. There are plenty of people who, having gotten their methadone, are not hanging about. And are off to school or a job or back to their family. They are functional because instead of needing to hang around the area to find dealers they are getting off the opioids and getting back to their lives.

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Dumb not to rebuild the bridge

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Losing all those facilities and programs on Long Island just as the problem exploded has been a disaster for Boston. Everyone knows about the large number of shelter beds lost when the bridge finally gave out, but fewer people realize that we also lost all infrastructure there that helped to move people out of addiction and homelessness, from detoxes and halfway houses to the 3 programs with hundreds of beds that had helped thousands of people into jobs and housing over the previous decade or so. I was one of them, starting at the shelter, moving into one of the programs, getting sober, and eventually getting a job in one of the detoxes on the island, and moving into my own place. While it is true you would see the same faces over and over again in the various programs and keeping it all afloat costs enormous sums of money, it worked both for the clients and the city, as we saw far fewer visibly homeless on Boston's streets than today.

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One correction: The bridge

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One correction: The bridge did not "give out." It was still standing when it was deemed unsafe by a state bureaucrat and access to the island was shut down.

The bridge had been slowly decaying for years, and it crossed some arbitrary threshold where they finally deemed it unsafe and disallowed its use.

IOW, this is entirely a problem caused by government mismanagement - first the city's inaction allowing the bridge to decay for so long, then the state's drastic action to suddenly close it with no warning, no coordination, no plan to transition the people on the island somewhere else.

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Finally

A city councilor with nerve to tell the truth about what's really going on.
Go get them Frank Baker

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If only Charlie Baker also

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If only Charlie Baker also had the stones to correctly point out that suburban parasites are the ones sending addicts into Boston. Why the hell are Boston taxpayers paying to clean up the mess that suburbanites created? Yet another reason to put up tolls on every entrance into Boston.

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Pull quote

Baker said the state and nearby communities have to do their part as well - and said he is tired of Boston becoming a dumping ground for suburban problems.

"They get handed bus tickets?" What a complete slap in the face to the very concepts of independence and voluntaryism. Maybe show some respect for your constituent who picked Boston as a place to live, since they didn't end up on the bus at gunpoint.

constituent

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I'm pretty sure you need to have a legal address in Boston to vote, so I'm not sure the homeless would really qualify as constituents. Not to mention the whole point of that statement was that other cities and towns should be working to help the homeless/drug addicted members in their own community instead of just giving them a bus ticket to Boston and telling them they can get help here.

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Works for me

How about we treat the sick, be heroes for that, and then we stop sending the money collected from me through the income tax to those other cities?

I'm not the only person disgusted by the notion of paying for things like Worcester or Alabama, right?

You do realize

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that there is a difference between federal, state and municipal taxes, correct?

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Yes

But the only difference is in who's making the collections.

Legal Address

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You do not need to be homed to vote.

Shelter addresses will do for "legal address".

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The guests can use their

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The guests can use their shelter address to register to vote. Just like sex offender registry lists a lot of shelter addresses for the offenders. I believe it is possible to register to vote if you are homeless.

If people want to move here

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If people want to move here on their own, that's independence and voluntaryism. But what this city councillor was criticizing is that (apparently) these other towns are actively encouraging people to move away, going so far as to give them bus tickets to Boston, to get rid of a problem they don't want to deal with.

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Just remember Mahhty and

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Just remember Mahhty and Charlie, you can't have gentrification until you stop what's CAUSING the increase of homelessness on the street.

Just another reason

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Just another reason why we need socialized medicine like yesterday....

If we had this and everyone had free healthcare coverage with no limits.. people could get into treatment. And I bet we'd see treatment centers pop up like we do luxury condos. When there's $$ to be made (and incentives to get and keep people clean like NHS does in the UK),

But no, we expect "non profits" to pick up the slack. There's no money in it so no one wants to do it.

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MA HAS SOCIALIZED MEDICINE

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MA HAS SOCIALIZED MEDICINE with MassHealth. Homeless people are cared for by Medicaid which is SOCIALIZED MEDICINE.

The problem isn't access to healthcare. It is the type of care they recieve. And that is only for the mentally ill portion of the problem.

The other half of the problem are people which just don't care about anyone or anything including themselves. And the solution to that is a question humanity has been asking itself since the beginning. How to help those that freely don't even wish to help themselves.

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Really?

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MA has single-payer healthcare? How did I miss that coming into effect? Perhaps you can tell me the name of the magnificent and totally unprecedented social program?

Oh, you mean MassHealth, a Romney-era private insurance pool that was branded as "socialized medicine" by a Congressional faction that wouldn't know socialism if it hit them over the head and stole their lunch money. No, see, MassHealth is a program that is almost certainly unaffordable to the homeless, which means the only way they can access care is through emergency room visits. Even if they could afford the lower tiers of coverage, there's almost certainly minimal mental health coverage in there, and what few providers are in-network are still going to have a high deductible and then copays to meet. So maybe we should actually try giving mental health care to addicts who are in need of it, since we've now seen that the alternative is literally "a throng of heroin addicts lining the streets."

That's not correct. There's

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That's not correct. There's no MassHealth deductible if your income is below the limit. And things like SSI don't count as income.

It's similar for copays. There's a $3.65 copay for prescriptions and a $3 copay for hospital stays, but there's a cap at 5% of your income per calendar quarter. No income means no copays.

Still not socialized medicine

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The service is not done by the state. State control of the means of production would be a hallmark of socialism. This is a case of the state funding the work of a private organization. There is still the option of the care giver not to accept MassHealth.

Methadone Mile

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It's not simply homelessness there, it's addiction & mental health. People being preyed upon by 2 bit drug dealers.Its easy to see, any time day or night.
I might be wrong but I think it's also jurisdiction issues between the State & Boston. Who's responsible for cleaning up the trash when they simply migrate to the next block? I've never seen BPD patrolling the intersection of Mass & Melnea. only Staties.
I work with Tropical at Dudley Sq l & I know the owner has to devote extra manpower trying to keep up with the pilfering & cleaning up discarded needles in their parking lot.

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Every morning

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I drive (well, I'm the passenger) down Melnea Cass to Mass Ave/Mass Ave Extension. Staties are parked there with lights flashing. City of Boston trucks are parked at various points between Albany and Mass Ave. Numerous people (10 to 15 maybe?) with hi-viz vests wait with brooms and dustbins for other folks in hi-viz vests performing their initial sweep for needles. Yesterday morning, or maybe Tuesday am, I watched a woman with one of those grabby sticks examine and then reach into an empty beer case/box and pull out 2 needles. In her left hand was a needle disposal bin.

From my daily observation, it's a tag team effort between State Police and the City.

It's not visible in the current Google Street View, but a second fence has been installed between the sidewalk and parking lot of the building supply company. Effectively someone has created an adult play pen for the people suffering from addiction. If you have a login, you can see it in NearMap which has flyover images from July of this year.

Today

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Update: today I did not see Staties with blues flashing. Instead, I saw City of Boston PD with blues flashing, min 2. One was on the grass between the sidewalk and street at Melnea Cass and Mass Ave and the other at the corner where Island St becomes Reading St. Boston DPW folks in hi-viz vests picking up the garbage. It's amazing just how much garbage is generated each day.

Methadone mile

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It is ridiculous that day and day out that you have to see them them shooting up as you drive by closing the Long Island shelter the people were always out there but now it’s seems like they tripled I personally feel that the city is not doing nothing about it . Mr Frank Baker none of those junkies are in u area at all our city Councilor and Mayor need to do better job with them !!! Don’t ever try to go put gas on mass ave at night because it’s like that’s there’ shoot up zone

The MILE

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First off no one chooses to be an addict. So more treatment is needed. But for a lot of people they want to get clean but have no place to go so staying high helps numb the pain and depression of having no place to go. You read in the paper all this money the government sues big pharmaceutical companies for that money should be used for services and to rebuild the bridge to Long Island. If you gave the “junkies” on the street an option of getting clean and having a true place to live and not just a shelter, where you can’t sleep as you worry about your stuff going missing 65% of them would take you up on the offer. It’s hard almost impossible to be on the street and have nothing to get housing by yourself especially with the rental rates in the greater Boston area. The Federal, State, and local governments must think outside the box and along with treatment offer people a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. Not just “spin dry” them clean and then put them right back on the streets. J

Vagrancy no longer a crime

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As I've noted before, there is a sizeable subculture that is homeless by choice. You can't force them into a shelter and vagrancy is no longer a crime. In many cases, homeless "camps" are in the woods, marshes, under highways and generally outside of public view. For many it's a fun way of life. Look at the last remnants of the Occupy movement under Menino. Once it got cold, the far-left spokesmen and women went home and some incoherent homeless people were left to speak to the media. Comical.

If we had a media, it would be interesting to discover how many are still registered to vote at Long Island Shelter. I believe they would be assigned to a Dorchester/Neponset precinct.

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That's nice

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They still need to answer for fucking up the bridge.

City councilors have to get out more

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They appear to be shocked that drug abuse and homelessness has exploded. I suggest a tour of the Commons and a ride on the MBTA which has become a moving shelter.

Methadone Mile

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The fact that Boston has an area known as the Methadone Mile is ludicrous and embarrassing

And yet y'all have a pearl

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And yet y'all have a pearl-clutching fainting fit at the first SUGGESTION of safe-injection sites. At least then they're off the street and not littering, pooping, and fighting each other on public sidewalks.

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