Boston Mayor Marty Walsh released his plan Friday for cleaning up the troubled section of the city's South End that has become known as the "Methadone Mile" due to the number of individuals in the area seeking treatment for substance abuse issues.
The plan, titled Melnea Cass/Mass Ave 2.0, calls for hiring new staff members to work in the area, funding for new programs and initiatives, improved coordination and a renewed focus on the services and efforts used by city officials to address the national opioid crisis.
"What we have on our hands is an opioid epidemic of historic proportions that is taking hold of too many lives, and tearing apart families in every city and town in our nation," Walsh said in a release. "As a society, we will never turn our backs on people who are at the most vulnerable time in their life."
"Through this plan," Walsh continued, "we are focusing on the area of Melnea Cass/Mass Ave to make the needed improvements for those who are struggling: those with a substance use disorder, and the residents impacted by this epidemic throughout Boston's neighborhoods. There is not one perfect solution to dealing with this crisis, but we are committed to doing everything we can."
Areas detailed in the plan include connecting those struggling with substance abuse with a pathway to recovery, reducing criminal activity, cutting down on discarded syringes in public spaces and enhancing beautification efforts and creating a 24-person task force to oversee the effort.
Calvin Dedrick, an employee of Boston Public Works, says something has to be done soon in order to save lives.
"You find needles, you find all types of paraphernalia," Dedrick said Friday while working in the impacted area. "Just two minutes ago - they just brought a man back to life down here on the corner."
Walsh's plan comes after complaints from residents and businesses that escalated after a Suffolk County Sheriff's Department corrections officer was attacked on Southampton Street in August. Surveillance video of the attack shows the officer jumping out of his car and punching someone as a mob quickly attacks him, at least one person hitting the officer with a metal pipe.
But that was just the latest in a long string of incidents.
"The number of times we saw people shooting up, or fighting, or defecating, was untenable," Sheriff Steven Tompkins told NBC10 Boston. "It was just out of control."
Workers at the 7-Eleven at Massachusetts Avenue and Washington Street say they have called police to complain about crime finding its way into the convenience store every month for the past year.
"Stealing, assaulting, physical assault," said Sayed Sherazei, who has worked at the 7-Eleven for more than a decade.
"They have no place to go. What they want is a bed and they want food," said Eileen Bornstein, who co-owns Olympia Flower Store.
The assault of the corrections officer led city leaders to say they would work to address the drug problems and criminal activity that have long plagued the area.
The new plan is one Boston Health and Services Chief Marty Martinez believes could help address issues in the area.
"This is a more comprehensive plan than we've had in awhile," Martinez said.
He added that with the new staff additions will come regular checks on progress every 6 months.
"We have to focus on getting people into care and treatment and supporting them, reaching folks on the street," Martinez said. "But at the same time when someone is in someone's porch or in someone's street or sleeping in a park - we've got to address that."