Legislative Leaders Appear at South End Forum Meeting: New Rep Santiago Makes First Pitch for Focus on Opiates

Newly inaugurated State Rep. Jon Santiago made his first public meeting appearance in the South End on Tuesday, Jan. 8, and said his agenda was going to focus immediately on the opiate epidemic.

Santiago joined a cadre of legislative officials at the South End Forum on Tuesday, including State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and Councilors Kim Janey and Ed Flynn. While those three have made numerous appearances at the Forum, it was the first time for Santiago to speak there as the state representative.

The Boston Medical Center emergency room doctor and captain in the Army National Guard made his mission clear – the planned to focus on the opiate epidemic.

“Every second door I knocked on during the campaign last year, it was the opiate epidemic that was the top issue for people,” he said. “I see it all the time as an emergency room doctor at BMC. I live just down the street and walk and bike to work. I’m around it all the time. We have bent the curve on deaths recently, but there is more work to do.”

Santiago said he wanted to see more access and more usage of Suboxone medical treatments for addiction rather than Methadone. He said he believes that would help to spread out the location of services and reduce the concentration of recovery services in the South End.

“If you have more Suboxone usage, you will begin to see the dilution of services in the South end and expanded across the Commonwealth,” he said, noting that there is a two-week waiting period to get the treatment.

He said one problem with Methadone is that a patient has to come to a facility daily to get the treatment and counseling. With Suboxone, it is a treatment that can be gotten at a pharmacy and used within the home.

Santiago said in March he will begin quarterly Town Halls on the opiate crisis to hear from the community. He said he and his team will have announcements about that in a couple of weeks.

•SOUTH END SEAT GETTING CLOSER

State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz delivered great news to the Forum in that the South End seat on the Logan Airport CAC board is only a governor’s signature away from being law.

“We passed legislation in the House and Senate on Dec. 31 to add a South End seat to the Logan CAC,” he said. “The governor has not signed it yet…It was a big step to get that through the legislature considering it was a first-time bill. The South End will have a voice at the table with air traffic.”

He said he does expect the governor to sign the bill, which is HB 4101, but encouraged the community to call on the governor’s office to get it done.

•JANEY OPEN TO CONGESTION PRICING, TNC LEGISLATION

Councilor Kim Janey said she would be open to congestion pricing for traffic in Boston, and hinted that she favors legislation to regulate surcharges on ride-share companies (known as TNCs).

“I would be open to looking into that,” she said when asked about congestion pricing, a policy that charges drivers using a transponder for traveling into certain zones with a vehicle.

Janey said there are too many vehicles on the roads, and she said that Uber and Lyft have definitely contributed to the increased congestion.

“Uber and Lyft have contributed to the traffic problems, but they are also an important source of income to many people,” she said. “It’s a second job. That said, we have to do more to try to discourage that many cars on our roads.”

•FLYNN OPPOSES 633 TREMONT MARIJUANA DISPENSARY

City Councilor Ed Flynn told the South End Forum that he is officially opposed to the Compassionate Organics marijuana dispensary proposal on Tremont Street due to the logistics of the operation.

“I am opposed to that proposal,” he said. “I observed there is no paring and if you want to visit this location, it’s extremely difficult. It’s also extremely difficult to do deliveries…Also, IBA across the street has a temporary daycare facility as well. We have to consider that too. I have heard from a lot of residents and they are concerned about quality of life issues. At this point, I don’t think it’s a good fit or location.”

Flynn said he does support marijuana facilities, including one downtown on Friend Street. He said the operation there is better and the security plan is solid.

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