Three years past the shutdown of Long Island and shuttering of programs on it, hearing Mayor Walsh’s promise to rebuild the bridge and open a state-of-the-art “recovery campus” on the island was discouraging.
The mayor made the same commitment days after the shutdown took place and, since then, what has he done? He demolished the bridge and relocated the beds serving the homeless, effectively moving those seeking an exit from addiction to Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard, creating a drug traffic/consumption free-trade zone.
When the merchants and residents complained about hordes of needy women and men that were deposited and abandoned in their neighborhood, Mayor Walsh committed approximately $1 million, not toward expanding access to treatment and harm reduction, which would make a difference in the lives of those struggling to survive on “Mass and Cass.” Instead, he created a “warehouse” behind the Southampton Street shelter, where they could be herded and kept out of sight of the Newmarket business community.
Given Mayor Walsh’s backward ideas about addiction and recovery, his commitment to creating a model “recovery campus” on the reopened Long Island is troubling as well. Despite growing consensus in the medical, public health, and law enforcement communities, Mayor Walsh remains adamantly opposed to proven and effective forms of treatment and harm reduction, like safe injection facilities. The mayor appears convinced that HIS experience as a recovering alcoholic is more relevant than the peer-reviewed studies in the leading journals published in dozens of countries around the world.
Mayor Walsh didn’t indicate how he would pay for any of this, so what reason do any of us have to believe that his promise is sincere or anything like a priority for his second term? When it comes to addressing the current opioid overdose epidemic, public officials like Mayor Walsh seem content to create the illusion of public activity rather than invest personal and political capital into making available proven and effective interventions, ones that would provide a real way out of the deprivation and degradation of addiction.
The writer is and is a founding and steering-committee member of the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee.