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Public-health doctor who led state's initial Covid-19 response to head Boston's Mass and Cass effort

Mayor-elect Michelle Wu said today she plans to appoint Dr. Monica Bharel, who served as commissioner of the state Department of Public Health as Covid-19 exploded, to serve as the cabinet-level head of the city's efforts to do something about Mass and Cass after Wu takes office on Tuesday.

Wu had vowed to make Mass and Cass one of her first priorities - and to do so with an emphasis on public-health and treatment rather than simply evicting everybody or tossing them in jail cells.

In addition to Bharel, Wu said she will elevate the Boston Public Health Commission's executive director, Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, to another cabinet post as head of overall public-health efforts, and will keep Sheila Dillon as director of the Department of Neighborhood Development, which oversees the disposition of vacant city buildings and land. Wu asked urrent public-health chief Marty Martinez to stay on long enough to support the transition to Ojikutu.

The moves, Wu said, will help with her goal of turning vacant city buildings into treatment facilities and housing for the homeless who now congregate at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard.

Dr. Bharel, Dr. Ojikutu, and Chief Dillon have dedicated their careers to serving the public and each brings a track record of results. This is the team that we need for Boston as we prioritize public health and housing and center the safety and dignity of all those struggling with substance use disorder, mental health, and housing instability.

In her own statement, Bharel said she will work with Wu to help convince neighboring cities and the state to help Boston deal with the crisis, since Mass and Cass has become a place for people across the state and New England to congregate.


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Janey did a really good job of taking the heat for the current Mass and Cass plan, what's she gonna get out of it?

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I just hope they continue to move people into shelters & treatment and off the sidewalks. We can't cede part of Boston to a regional problem and we should NEVER allow tents, as it can help hide exploitation.

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A very fitting appointment.

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You could always move back to Somerville and try to be an alderman again...

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