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The people of Methadone Mile

Two Globe reporters spend time with the addicts on the stretch of Mass. Ave. now known as Methadone Mile.

It's an interesting, sad read, worth the time - and maybe an e-mail to the mayor's office asking whatever happened to Long Island.

Perhaps there'll be a part 2 in which they talk to the people who live in that area (yes, there are apartments there) on how their lives have been changed by the influx.

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Comments

Maybe he can take a few of those poor souls to rehab himself. You know, the way Dan Koh always says he does?

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I drive that stretch every day to and from work and it just keeps getting worse. The photos show some guys shooting up behind a house, but you can regularly see people shooting up from the comfort of your car as you wait for the light, right on the median or on the sidewalk. It's outrageous that a Mayor who obviously cares a lot about substance abuse has seemingly done little to change things down there.

I'd like to hope that this piece results in the Mayor doing something, but hopefully it doesn't just result in them pushing these people out of that visible spot into some out of the way corner where they're not "a burden on the public's eyes."

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Can someone tell me how far the "Mile" extends along Mass Ave towards the Orange Line stop? Is that where it begins, since those blocks are a path to the medical area? Is the Dunkin Donuts at Washiington Street another hangout? Thanks.

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Technically, it is either Mass Ave going towards South Bay or Southampton going towards Andrew Square, with the Melnea Cass intersection being the starting point. I prefer the former, but given the state of Andrew Square, the latter might be more apt.

By the way, I don't consider the closure of Long Island to be the cause of all of this. It was pretty bad there before the bridge closed. Also, the article tells of a trajectory going from the suburbs to downtown crossing to the clinics, with the unintended consequences being a thriving opiate trade in the area. As much as I'd love to see progress in helping the homeless, there are 2 different issues at play.

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Long Island may not be the cause, but there was a sudden and dramatic increase in foot traffic, crime, and all the rest right after that shelter closed, and it hasn't abated since. I agree that there are two separate issues at play, but there is substantial crossover between the homeless population and populations requiring services for mental health and addiction, and the influx of people from the Long Island closure took this from a tenuous situation to a completely unsustainable one for everyone - service providers, businesses, and residents.

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While the Long Island facility was a critical service for the homeless, I always thought it a little off-putting that we were sticking people on a bus and shipping them off to an island out of sight. But now that I can see what the alternative is, I've changed my mind. It's not that we should be keeping them hidden away, but as the story points out and as you can watch on a daily basis while waiting for the light to change, the place has become an open market bazaar for people selling drugs, which only makes it that much more difficult to break the cycle. A controlled access location like Long Island meant that at least by the end of the day these people might be a little less exposed to those who would be turning a buck off their disease.

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Definitely past South Bay. I's say al the way to Edward Everett Sq. based on my observations.

Very sad seeing these people here and in DTX and on the Common in particular.

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Not scientific by any stretch, but many Southenders will tell you that the area of Mass Ave. that regularly sees open-air drug transactions, over-sedated and addictive behaviors, discarded needles, and zombie-like souls wandering, staggering, or lying about keeps expanding. The epicenter of the opioid and now drug cocktail activity is at Albany, Mass Ave., Melnea Cass, and Southampton, but we have seen steady encroachment from the Worcester Square Area of Mass Ave. to Chester Square and up the avenue to Tremont Street which is included in the Claremont neighborhood. People staggering in and out of the PLS check cashing store at Tremont and Mass Ave. is now becoming more and more commonplace, and it's not students after a night out at Clery's.

Hopeful news is that the South End with the sponsorship of both the Mayor's Office and the City Council (led by Councilor Essabi-George who heads up the new Council Committee on Homelessness and Recovery) and District Councilor Baker, is about to launch a Task Force comprised of all major stakeholders and resource managers-- including institutions like BMC, BUMC, Boston Health Care for the Homeless, local businesses including the Newmarket Association, all first responders and law enforcement reps, elected officials at state and local levels, South End Forum neighborhood associations, public and private shelter reps, and multiple addiction-recovery professionals. The idea is to create unified plans, develop and implement creative solutions, develop and ask for the resources needed to address this issue/geography rather than continue to work in stovepipes. Lots of good work being done individually by public and private agencies (and law enforcement) today, but this crisis keeps growing and we need everyone at the table to find and implement humane, smart, and sustainable solutions. We haven't tried to bring all the stakeholders and resources together to act in a unified way before, so we're hopeful we may be able to have impact. At least we're going to try and keep trying until we start to see hoped for results. Today's Globe article is essentially the mission statement for the Task Force.

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There is no medical cure for addiction. Stop going after doctors and start going after the dealers, and get rid of those dealers permanently. In jail or back on an airplane. After all, they ARE serial killers. Stop enabling addicts by giving them places to shoot up in safety. You want to stop complaining about the litter, the human waste, the break-ins, the bank robberies, the shootings, the stabbings, the zombies stumbling and scaring tourists away? Then stop the heroin traffcking and synthetic heroin trafficking, and get the dealers off the streets permanently. Stop sugar coating addiction and enabling the addicts. I've experienced this shit first hand as many others have in their neighborhoods and families. Once a heroin addict comes out of rehab, it is rare to see longterm sobriety, more than any other substance.

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There are absolutely medical treatments for addiction, but they are often not covered by mass health. There is also a dearth of services to treat the underlying issues that make coping with addiction difficult, such as mental illness or abuse.

Furthermore, treating the drug problem as a supply side issue is how we got the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and CIA intervention in foreign governments. You can't build a wall tall enough to keep people from wanting to get high. It's demand that drives the drug trade, not sinister illegals loitering around playgrounds and corrupting our otherwise wonderful, rosy-cheeked youth.

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Very wrong.

Supply side attention to the problem - criminalization - has been tried for FIFTY YEARS and there is NO disputing that it CAUSED THIS MESS.

As the signs at my workplace say: Addiction is a disease. This is a PUBLIC HEALTH crisis, not a police crisis.

There are enormous amounts of evidence to back this up. Open your mind, head to PubMed, and start reading it. Stop pretending it is about dealers or any sort of moral failing, stop asserting that there is no treatment when we know there is.

You can start educating yourself about the evidence-based approach HERE

People who think like you do CAUSED this problem. Another ten years of your foolishness amok science and medical practice will not solve it.

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then why aren't we concentrating more efforts on figuring out how to PREVENT it, since the whole curing-it thing seems to be a near universal failure?

I've said here before--I'm not unsympathetic to addiction issues but the "disease" analogy seems so deeply flawed to me. No one chooses to get a disease. And treating heroin addiction, unlike treating chronic diabetes or heart disease or cancer, seems rarely to actually end it--it's just a brutal, long spiral of human misery that wrecks families beyond measure. I get that "just say no" is not an option but stopping it before it starts seems to be the only way.

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I feel like the addiction-as-disease model is a lot more similar to mental-illness-as-disease than it is to diabetes or heart disease. Including it being a long, permanent struggle with endless heartache for everyone involved. Ergo it becomes about managing symptoms, harm reduction, building coping strategies, keeping the problem from spiraling into further issues like homelessness/prostitution, etc.

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No one chooses to get a disease? So lung cancer isn't a disease? When a life-long smoker starts hacking up his lungs, we should just say "hey that's a decision not a disease." And George Burns who smoked all his life didn't get it, so where were the personal responsibility police to come along and force feed him some asbestos to give him his earned comeuppance?

I'm not so idiotic to remove all personal responsibility for one's life decisions from the equation, but addiction is a disease not just a moral failure. And having witnessed and experienced some of what you're talking about -- heroin addiction just burning a hole through a family -- I understand your point of view. It does seem like some people can't get out of their own way/they're their own worse enemy/etc., but aside from a few exceptional cases of people seemingly willing themselves out of addiction, the cases where people have successfully managed their addictions have resulted from treatment (usually very expensive and time-consuming treatment) of the addiction as a disease.

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as a disease or a moral failure. And God knows I have no idea HOW to prevent people from getting addicted. I just hate what seems like a move towards a kind of shrugging we-just-have-to-manage-this approach. I understand the urge to "reduce the stigma" (and you're right that there are huge parallels with mental illness) but it just seems to focus on patching the broken vase together than figuring out how to prevent it from breaking in the first place. I know that recovery is possible but statistically...rare. And following in every case I've ever heard of, years of devastation.

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So you don't believe in jailing high level drug traffickers? Then let them stay at your summer cottage.

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Jailing these high traffic dealers won't change their addiction Maria!!! The demand will still be there, and they will find a new way to get way. The dealers are part of the problem. This is a public health crisis and needs to be addressed as such!

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If you don't address the underlying issues that cause epidemic levels of drug addiction, jailing one trafficker simply causes three more to pop up in their place. The black market is still a market, and if people want to get high there will be someone there to capitalize on that desire. It's completely backwards to assume that drug dealers cause drug use.

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I like how you got so many buzzwords into that final paragraph, but you forgot a few. Couldn't you at least have worked "tasked" into the mix?

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I live on Reading Street, right in the thick of this situation. It's nice to hear that there's a task force being formed, but I wish I hadn't had to find out in the comments on UHub. As stakeholders, those of us on Reading and Alther Streets will be looking forward to our invitation to the next task force meeting!

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On Google aerial maps, it looks like the entire area is trucking terminals.

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Yes, there are a few residential buildings south of Albany St. Newmarket would have been a great place to live for people working at BMC, were the hospital and university able to patrol the place, the way Longwood Medical Area is patrolled. It's one of the reasons every able BMC / BUSM employee moves to HMS or even Tufts Medical. But that there will be a task force... yeah, right, that will not even register.

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Cut the shit. The areas always been shady. It the home of the walking dead. Always was and will be.

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One day after the article the cleanup has begun. By 8:30am there were about a dozen workers in yellow vests picking up trash, large private security guards moving people along, and zero people shooting up out in the open. I could still play the guess who is on methadone game, and there were still a large number of people congregating around Cumberland Farms (just around the corner).

Glad to see all the trash has been cleaned up and all the problems have been solved.

Way to go Boston!

//sarcasm

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Photographer Keith Bedford was the third journo in on this, and he did some very good work.

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Seconded in a big way.

I didn't get through the entire article yet, but the thing that has stuck with me, more than the writing (which I thought was quite good at times), was one of the photographs. The one of the guy shooting up in the alley.

The thing that struck me was the juxtaposition. There, in a dead end alley is a man shooting up while another man watches him. The other man is wearing a sweatshirt from my alma mater, Boston College.

I thought to myself: there, but for the grace of God, go I. The juxtaposition of the utter depravity and hopelessness of being in a dead end alley shooting heroin, with the privilege and potential that comes with being able to attend BC - it captures in one photograph so much of what has gone wrong in our society.

Someone very close to me, someone who I love dearly, someone with a privileged background, nearly succumbed to the opiate scourge. Miraculously, she got to the precipice, looked over, and was somehow able to turn around and come back.

I don't know how we're going to fix this, but we, and that means our whole society, even institutions that have "nothing to do with this" are going to have figure something out. And that's the message that I am taking to BC the next time that they call for a donation (which won't be long at all).

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before long island was closed

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IQysLLU0Z4

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I refuse to call it by a trendy name that sells newspapers. It deserves no name. Its a dangerous situation where dozens of addicts come together and feel empowered to perpetrate violence and yell death threats to passersby. They feel free to wander in the street and harrass traffic, since no one has taken responsibility to stop or disperse them. I ride my bike through there twice a day commuting to and from work and anywhere else I need to go in Boston. I was attacked there on my bicycle, jabbed in the face and punched. . "I'll kill you! I have 80 friends here who will kill you if you call the cops"., meaning the other addicts hanging around the ,hospital. Another member of this community threatened; "I'll push your bike over, no one will ever know what happened". He meant that he would push me over in front of traffic to kill me, and me in the vulnerable position of waiting at the intersection, I think he probably could have succeeded. He also said, "If you ride past here again, I'll kill you". With so many drug addicts in one place, the drug dealers sure know where to come to do business. I don't see law enforcement down here myself, but I have seen people injecting one another in broad daylight at the intersection of Melnea Cass and Mass Ave. Someone needs to keep this area safe, but I'm always told that there isn't anything any one can do, until violence happens and the police called. But isn't that too late? Calling the police didn't help me, and if there is nothing else for a citizen to do, then it seems this crowd of drug addicts can do just about whatever they like.

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