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Charlie Baker says Boston must go after dealers to solve Mass and Cass problem

Boston Herald 11/29/2022 Matthew Medsger

The wasteland along Mass and Cass isn’t something the state can fix if Boston won’t stop the drug dealers, Gov. Charlie Baker said.

He stressed that following a roundtable discussion Tuesday with leaders in the fight against the opioid epidemic.

“The state of Massachusetts has spent $40 million, so far, on programming associated with Mass and Cass,” Baker said at A New Way Peer Recovery Center in Quincy Tuesday.

The outgoing governor was south of Boston to meet with members of his opioid task force and to tout the work done during his two terms to fight addiction and overdose deaths.

After pointing to the bills he’s signed and giving Gov.-elect Maura Healey a chance to explain the $750 million she’s successfully secured from opioid-related settlements, Baker was asked to speak in response to criticism by Boston’s Mayor Michelle Wu over the state’s efforts to clean up the perpetual humanitarian crisis at the corner of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue, also known as the Methadone Mile.

The mayor inherited the public health and law enforcement emergency from the city’s previous leadership team and it has proven to be a particularly painful thorn in the paw of her year-old administration. She contends that the problem is not one that Boston, or any city, can solve alone while drug users, dealers and illicit substances continue to flow into the Hub from across the state and region.

Baker maintains that the state has done its part, providing many of the beds which the previously homeless residents of Mass and Cass’ nigh-permanent transient camp now occupy and directing millions in state money toward both addiction treatment and housing.

“We, currently, have set up many low-threshold housing sites around the commonwealth, and continue to do that. We’ve added hundreds and hundreds of low-threshold beds,” he said.

The problem isn’t even one that would be easily solved by the restoration of the Long Island Bridge, Baker said, despite the need for easy access to the treatment centers found on the other side.

The solution lies with the Boston Police Department, Baker said in quite a few more words.

“The one thing we can’t do much about are some of the issues around dealers,” Baker said. “That’s a city responsibility. As long as you have dealers who feel like they can do their business in an open-air market in downtown Boston it’s going to be hard for us to get as far as we need to get to deal with this.”

Baker’s eight years as governor have seen significant growth in money spent on the agencies responsible for fighting drug addiction in Massachusetts.

When he took office drug programs saw about $120 in funding in the state’s budget. This year’s spending plan included about five times as much for drug treatment and harm reduction initiatives, nearly $600 million.

The number of deaths due to overdose since 2000 has, despite the spending, kept a near-identical pace. To start the millennium the Bay State recorded 375 opioid-related deaths.

Last year there were 2,290, a record.

BOSTON, MA – November 29: A used syringe used to inject drugs on the ground along Methadone Mile on November 29, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald) © Provided by Boston Herald BOSTON, MA – November 29: A used syringe used to inject drugs on the ground along Methadone Mile on November 29, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald) BOSTON, MA – November 29: Open drug use along Atkinson Street near Methadone Mile on November 29, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald) © Provided by Boston Herald BOSTON, MA – November 29: Open drug use along Atkinson Street near Methadone Mile on November 29, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald) BOSTON, MA – November 29: A man uses a syringe along Atkinson Street near Methadone Mile on November 29, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald) © Provided by Boston Herald BOSTON, MA – November 29: A man uses a syringe along Atkinson Street near Methadone Mile on November 29, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald) BOSTON, MA – November 29: Tents and open drug use along Atkinson Street near Methadone Mile on November 29, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald) © Provided by Boston Herald BOSTON, MA – November 29: Tents and open drug use along Atkinson Street near Methadone Mile on November 29, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Staff Photo By Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)
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