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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s proposal to rebuild the bridge to Long Island allowing treatment services to resume in that location clearly demonstrates that his administration is committed to doing their part in addressing substance addiction and the tragic toll of the opioid epidemic here in Boston head on. The City has worked hard to relocate many of the services that were shuttered when the only bridge to Boston Harbor’s Long Island was closed in October of 2014. The Mayor and the Office of Recovery Services worked closely with Victory Programs to help open Victory Programs’ New Victories for Women in 2016 and New Joelyn’s Home this past spring; which combined replaced over 80% of the women’s residential recovery beds located on Long Island before the bridge’s closing. Victory Programs accomplished these openings in record time due to significant support from both the City and the State for the projects.
Many may ask, then why re-build the bridge and re-establish the services on the island if many of the services can and have be replaced?
Because we are facing an epidemic.
People die waiting to get into treatment and recovery programs. Replacing the beds that were lost when the bridge closed is not enough. Almost anyone from provider to parent to patient will tell you that the current capacity is not enough. With wait times for residential recovery programs stretching as much as four months our city desperately needs more beds dedicated to long term treatment and recovery. Decades of chronic and chaotic substance use is not undone in a 3 to 5 day detox stay or even 28 days in a highly structured program. The ability to plan one’s recovery path including reintegration into a community, creation of a support network, employment and a safe living situation are crucial pieces to long term recovery and stability. Residential recovery programs are uniquely qualified to help clients develop these skills.
Long Island has a long history of serving underserved populations from the earliest days housing a TB hospital to the day the bridge closed. The secluded location provides a unique opportunity for a closely-knit community of service providers across the entire continuum of care in an environment many recovery clients found extremely beneficial. That being said, substance addiction is a pressing concern in our communities now and the tragic consequences of the opioid crisis are visible every day on our streets and in our communities. We must consider every possible solution for opening more substance addiction treatment services as quickly as possible to ensure that we have enough options for quality care for the people who need it most, today, tomorrow and in the years to come.
Recovery requires a continuum of care from detox programs, to short-term stabilization services, to residential recovery programs and beyond. It is vitally important that individuals have low-threshold access to the level of care they need when they make the difficult decision to face their addiction and seek treatment. Extended time on waitlists lowers the chance that individuals seeking treatment will be successful in their recovery efforts. Expanding the capacity for qualified providers to offer evidence-based support services on-demand to those who need it most will save lives.
It takes years to open a new recovery program. The process is long and complicated: locating a suitable site, acquiring the property in a red hot real estate market, meeting with neighborhood groups and community members, obtaining zoning variances, construction and rehabilitation, hiring staff in an incredibly tight job market and obtaining proper licensing.
Many of the buildings on Long Island have already been through this process. They were specifically built out for these purposes. Outside of sitting abandoned for three years, they are practically ready which would significantly reduce the timeline for opening the doors to individuals desperately seeking treatment.
Joelyn’s Family Home still exists on Long Island and we applaud any efforts to bring that program and others back to life.
The mayor has taken the first steps toward starting the process of rebuilding the bridge with his announcement.
We hope that our community will support the city’s efforts to build a bridge to Long Island that can literally serve as a bridge to recovery, hope and lives fully lived.
Eileen Maguire, Deputy Director of Victory Health
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