At least one leader on the South End Forum Opiate Task Force is calling on the City to consider three changes to the status quo to try to stem the tide of homelessness and addiction issues on Mass/Cass in the South End.
Forum Moderator Steve Fox said he has been in contact with several City and Police leaders in the hopes that they would consider at least three key points in combatting the crisis that has swollen to a breaking point this summer.
First and foremost, he said he and many in the Worcester Square neighborhood have agreed to make a call for the return of dedicated bike patrols in the area. Those patrols seemed to disappear this year, and police have said they are using them still, but spreading them out more.
Fox said he believes part of the issue in the area has been that the eyes on the ground are elsewhere.
“I think we’re in the position we’re in and it got as bad as it did because we didn’t have that early warning system that the bike officers provide,” he said. “When he found out what was happening, no one was able to respond.”
A second point is one that has been brewing for several years, and that’s the AHOPE needle exchange program on Albany Street, the only one in the City.
Fox said he believes such a service needs to be spread out all over the City so that it isn’t the destination it has become.
“I would like to see if a voucher system couldn’t be negotiated with CVS or Walgreen’s so that they could be redeemed for needles anywhere,” he said. “No longer would people need to trek into the South End…We need to be able to decentralize that service.”
Finally, he said with the success of the Engagement Center on Southampton Street, there needs to be more. This is a point that has been echoed by many in the Worcester Square Area Neighborhood Association as well, and is another example of decentralizing such a service.
It’ can’t just be one single source location,” Fox said. “We did the pilot and it works and if it worked, it was to be duplicated.”
He said the City should immediately start looking for alternate location to locate other Engagement Centers like the one on Southampton.
“It worked, it was a success and we need more of them in other neighborhoods,” he said.
The next Working Group meeting will tentatively be on Sept. 17 at 4 p.m., location to be announced.