The long-discussed wide- ranging opiate treatment bill passed the state legislature late Tuesday night just in the nick of time, after a conference committee on Tuesday agreed to a compromise form of the bill that went through many twists and turns over the past month.
State Rep. Dan Ryan, who is vice chair of the House’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Committee and had a big hand in the bill, said he was happy to see that the body came to agreement and voted unanimously on the final bill only hours after the compromise reached the floor.
He said that many hard issues were discussed – such as providing opiate treatment to inmates, creating Safe Injection Facilities, and looking at involuntary commitments for substance abuse treatment – but none of the sticking points caused the bill to derail in the last hours.
“A unanimous vote on such a major piece of legislation, such as the opioid bill, shows what we are able to do here in the Commonwealth,” he said. “Because we don’t retreat into our partisan safe zones, we are able deliver a bill that will go a long way in curbing this scourge that had affected so many communities… I have to thank Speaker DeLeo for appointing me vice-chair of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Committee. My knowledge of so much of the good work being done by others in Charlestown and Chelsea really helped me to shape discussion. I thank everyone in our communities that are doing recovery work.”
Rep. Ryan said he thanked Conference Committee Chair Rep. Denise Garlick and Sen. Cynthia Friedman for their quick analysis of a tough issue.
“After months of public testimony, stakeholder meetings and expert analysis they worked through the weekend processing all of that info and hammered out a bill we can all live with and will save lives,” he said. “Our neighborhoods, hospitals, schools and even correctional facilities will be safer places because of this bill.”
One of the sticking points in the bill was Safe Injection Facilities (SIFs), which allow people to use illegal injection drugs in a supervised medical environment. It is illegal in the United States and opposed by the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts. While that measure had supporters in the Senate, it did not get support in the House. The compromise on that created a commission to study the concept with municipal leaders, including Mayor Martin Walsh – who opposes the idea outright.
A second measure allows a pilot program in county jails and state prisons to allow treatment medicines, such as Methadone, to be given to inmates. Currently, those in treatment when they enter jail are cut off from that treatment. The pilot, however, does not operate in Suffolk County. Only two state prisons are included – MCI-Cedar Junction and the Plymouth treatment facility for men.
Finally, Ryan said the House had been very much opposed to the idea of Section 35 involuntary treatment, but Gov. Charlie Baker was very supportive of the idea. The program is running in Boston on a pilot with the West Roxbury District Court, and it allows police and medical professionals to involuntarily hold certain individuals for the sake of treatment without the approval of family – which is usually required.
The matter was adopted for study by a commission.
Other highlights include:
- Requires electronic prescribing for all controlled substances, with limited exceptions, effective January 1, 2020.
- Expands access to naloxone (Narcan) in the community by (1) establishing a standing order, providing access to naloxone without a prescription, (2) allowing certain Sheriffs to purchase naloxone at a lower cost through the state’s bulk purchasing program, and (3) allowing local governments and agencies to exchange unexpired naloxone.
- Establishes a commission to make recommendations on the certification of Recovery Coaches.
- Mandates that providers check the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) prior to issuing any prescription for a benzodiazepine.
- Establishes a Center for Police Training in Crisis Intervention to support cost-effective, evidence-based mental health and substance use crisis response training programs for law enforcement, providing the tools to respond appropriately to behavioral health crises.
A woman who was pulled to safety by Firefighter Miguel Acosta and other members of Engine 2 last Saturday is wheeled to an ambulance after a fire broke out early at 160 Broadway.
The woman had been trapped in a rear bedroom on the third floor. Firefighters had to fight through heavy flames to get to her.
Heavy flames were engulfing the third floor at 160 Broadway, and someone was trapped.
With Chelsea firefighters beating back the flames, Firefighter Miguel Acosta began feeling around on the floor and found what turned out to be a soot-covered arm. He grabbed it, and pulled the trapped woman to safety.
“I felt what I thought was an arm but it was her leg,” said Acosta. “Then I dragged her out of the room with the help of Tower 1’s crew.”
The woman was taken down from the third floor by Tower 1’s crew and transported to MGH Boston. The last report from the hospital stated she was in stable condition and expected to recover.
The life-saving grab came after a call on Saturday, Feb. 7, at 5:58 a.m. brought the fire department to the report of a building fire at 160 Broadway. Engine 2 was first to arrive on scene from Central Fire Station and reported a working fire.
Deputy Chief Robert Zalewski arrived on scene and observed fire on the top floor. Chelsea Police officers reported that a person was trapped on the third floor.
Engine 2’s crew stretched a hose line into the building and made their way to the third floor. Tower Ladder 1’s crew quickly entered the building and proceeded to the 3rd floor to perform a search for the trapped occupant.
Engine 2’s crew started to extinguish the fire as they entered the third floor, pushing it back enough to allow a search to commence. Within a minute, the occupant was located in a rear bedroom by Firefighter Acosta.
Crews worked for over an hour to extinguish the fire. Everett Engine 2 and Revere Ladder 2 responded to the fire as the Rapid Intervention Team.
One Chelsea Firefighter was injured when he slipped on the ice in front of the building and broke his arm.
Boston Engine 5 and Boston Ladder 21 covered Central Fire Station while Somerville Engine 2 covered the Mill Hill Station.
The Chelsea Fire Investigation Unit determined the cause of the fire as careless disposal of a cigarette.
Damage to the building is estimated at $75,000.
The Chelsea City Council and City Manager Jay Ash are in the midst of hotly debating an omnibus 10-point crime plan unveiled late last year and now getting an airing on the floor of the City Council.
Last Tuesday, Jan. 21, the Council spend hours talking about the plan, and addressed it once again on Monday night.
So far, much of the plan has gotten rave reviews, but parts of it have met stiff resistance from some corners of the Council – and once again – the frequency and length of walking patrols seems to be at the heart of the matter.
Another point of contention, likewise, is the possibility of between $400,00 and $500,000 in city grants for street intervention with high-risk youth. Though there are some caveats, the grants are scheduled to go to Roca, which some believe is already extremely well-funded and doesn’t need taxpayer money.
All of those, as well as personality conflicts within the Council, are up for debate and are getting just such a sounding off.
The plan was born last summer when then-Council President Dan Cortell and City Manager Jay Ash and Police Chief Brian Kyes put their heads together to address some of the lingering crime and quality of life issues. That plan was released late last year, with one highlight being the hiring of five new police officers on a matching grant.
Council President Matt Frank said the Council is taking up the plan as 10 separate issues with 10 separate votes and many of those votes will be taken up Monday night. He said he fully supports the plan, and he defended the City money in the plan being set aside for Roca.
“I don’t think it can be debated that the work Roca is doing in Chelsea is good for the City,” he said. “I think some people are having an issue with spending money on these kids who are high-risk, but if no one keeps after them, they will only get worse. Roca has turned around quite a few people…The funding we’re looking at would only go into effect if they get their state money cut. We’re not just giving them a check for them to continue doing their work. If we can advocate with our state delegation to keep their funding, then we won’t use this money. If they get cut half, only half of the money would get used.”
Meanwhile, City Councillor Joe Perlatonda – who has been very vocal about public safety in the newspaper and at Council meetings – said he isn’t so sure he buys into the whole 10-point plan. First of all, he said he would have liked the whole Council to be involved, but he felt he was shut out.
“I think we should have all been involved and sat down and discussed it a lot more,” he said. “I guess one councillor and the police chief and city manager came up with this last summer. This is $2.4 million and we’re getting like two meetings to get it passed. I think we need more time. I’m not buying into all of it. They want a slam dunk unanimous vote and I don’t know if I can give them a slam dunk.”
He also said he is disappointed with Frank’s leadership and what he and others on the Council who agree with him call a steamroller.
“It’s funny two other councillors can talk together on this without being acknowledged by the president and that’s ok,” he said. “But, when I jump in to talk crime stats, I’m ruled out of order. It’s a shame some councillors and the council president don’t want to work together as a team. I’m beginning to think this 10-point plan is a way to get people like me to shut up and go away…It’s a shame that it’s their way or no way with their clique up there.”
Frank said the 10-point plan bolsters walking patrols, and indicated that councillors don’t understand that to have walking patrols, the Department needed more staffing. With the plan delivering five new officers, and perhaps as many as 12, that can be accomplished.
“Adding extra police opens up a few officers to walk beats more often,” he said. “I think there is a belief among some that we can make a police officer drop what they’re doing and go walk a beat. Currently, we don’t have the manpower. Officers already have assignments and they can’t just go out and walk a beat. Having more officers under the plan relieves officers of these assignments and frees them up.”
Perlatonda, though, had a different take. He said he agrees with freeing up officers for beats, but he wants them out there for extended periods.
“I don’t want a beat for an hour or a half-hour; I would like to see it for a whole shift,” he said. “They think I’m asking too much…People don’t see the officers. I get calls all the time from residents who say they’re finding needles on their driveways and see prostitution and drugs on their streets. Having these beats doesn’t stop crime altogether, but everything out there says it moves it out of the neighborhoods where people and kids are at.”
The full 10-point plan is as follows:
1. Provide match funding for five new police officers
2. Establish a permanent Street Robbery Task Force
3. Increase walking routes and police visibility
4. Extend the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (which contains a $400,000 to $500,000 City grant to Roca if state funding is cut).
5. Plan for more officers to be hired and paid by casino impact funds – up to seven more officers.
6. Finance the purchase of home security cameras for interested residents.
7. Advance a Crime-Free Zone for the downtown
8. Fund two community outreach navigators
9. Hire a Police Department civilian crime watch manager
10. Fund a Prostitution Prevention and Intervention Task Force