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    Editorials
    Friday, January 27, 2023

    Boston says yes to crack pipes, no to food

    This appeared in the Boston Herald

    “Boston logic” is a suitable addition to the universe of oxymorons such as “jumbo shrimp.”

    How else would one describe the thought process that decrees the distribution of food to the denizens of the Methadone Mile as bad, but giving out drug paraphernalia as good?

    As the Herald reported, city officials have been handing out a flier to organizations and advocates who bring food to the people who frequent drug-plagued Mass and Cass.

    The message: Stop it.

    “While well-intentioned, your efforts can lead to harm to community members,” one flier reads.

    Some of the reasons listed: food distribution vehicles and the crowds they bring cause traffic issues on busy Southampton Street; and “Improper disposal of food and packages increases trash and rodent population. This risks the health of community members.”

    Contrast that with the campaign to give out pipes for smoking crack and meth and other drug paraphernalia.

    The Boston Public Health Commission and other Mass and Cass-area institutions are distributing pipes for smoking crack and meth in addition to an array of other paraphernalia to this population.

    That includes “cookers” and tourniquets, all in the name of “harm reduction.”

    Mayor Michelle Wu is on board. “The state-funded syringe services and harm reduction program — which has been in place in Boston since 1994 and in other communities across the state and country —has helped reduce the incidence of communicable diseases and saved lives,” Wu’s office said when asked about the efforts.

    Wouldn’t it stand to reason, then, that the Mass and Cass crisis should be improving? At the very least, the incidence of overdoses and the like should be diminishing. Not so, as CBS News Boston found in 2019. According to Boston Crime Incident Reports, there were 229 medical or drug-related calls in the Methadone Mile area that year. In 2018, there were 185 reports total. In 2016, there were 31.

    And for a city that’s concerned about food delivery increasing trash and boosting the rodent population, thus risking “the health of community members,” the presence of discarded needles on city streets and local playgrounds should warrant at least the same degree of ire as tossed food wrappers.

    That Mass and Cass has become a recirculating fountain of addiction issues is exemplified by the recent cleanup of the area, dismantling of tents and securing treatment and housing for people – only for the tents and drug users to return.

    Why shouldn’t they? This is the place to score free pipes and clean needles. True, it may be harder to get a free sandwich, but the dining situation isn’t the Methadone Mile’s big draw.

    It makes one wonder: What is the end game?

    As Domingos DaRosa, who’s worked with kids in the area and picked up needles in the Mass and Cass vicinity for years, said “We’re just giving people the tools to get high. It’s not designed to reduce the population on the street here.”

    Those streets, it should be noted, don’t just belong to addicts and the homeless. These neighborhoods are filled with families and businesses, who deserve to be safe, to not worry about their child being stuck by a discarded needle while playing.

    That’s the kind of harm reduction Boston needs to see.

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