By SCOTT JACKSON
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu toured Long Island on Wednesday and shared her vision for a planned recovery campus on the island.
Wu toured the island along with Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, the executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. They were joined by a number of service providers who either previously used the facilities on Long Island or plan to do so in the future.
“We were able to walk through and assess and get a sense of just being there in person what we could do,” Wu said during a press conference after the tour, “and all the possibilities for what a recovery campus could be used for in this moment of great need in the city, much of which is most visible at Mass Ave and Melnea Cass Boulevard and the surrounding area, but really we know represents tremendous need from families across every neighborhood in Boston and across every city in the commonwealth.
“I’m really thankful for all of the work that is already underway in terms of planning what that campus will involve and how we can all be coordinated to set up a system that really complements the resources that will be available in the city of Boston, including some other ones that are under development, including the Shattuck.”
Wu on Aug. 10 announced Boston had received a Chapter 91 license from the state for the bridge – a decision Quincy Mayor Thomas Koch has said he would appeal. With the permit in hand, Wu said Boston could begin planning for the recovery campus on the island, which would be ready to open four years from now when the new bridge is complete.
“As we keep our eye on that four-year timeline, we’re already taking steps now,” Wu said at Wednesday’s press conference. “There is $40 million set aside in this current budget for stabilization of the buildings…There’s water damage and other changes to the infrastructure that we know will be necessary no matter what programming will be inside. And then we also have $83 million set aside for bridge construction as we get underway having secured the DEP permit, the Department of Environmental Protection permit, two weeks ago and are finishing the last few steps in that process to make sure we have all of the approvals that are necessary.
“It’s a moment of great momentum and excitement and gratitude as we’re together with all of the provider community here who have been working very closely with the city and each other for a long time, and now we’re looking concretely at a resource that will be available hopefully in a four-year time span.”
Ojikutu said the facilities on Long Island – which closed in 2014 when the island was evacuated due to concerns about the structural integrity of the former bridge – were a critical resource to Boston and the region as a whole.
“I think it’s important also to remind ourselves just how critical of a resource this was,” she said, “and how much of an asset this was for the city of Boston as well as for the state and for the region, and to think to ourselves we’re seeing the brunt of not having it available at this point in time.”
The services in the new campus will be better coordinated with each other and with services on the mainland, Ojikutu said, as opposed to being siloed like they previously were.
“I think that we had services that were there that were really wonderful and were operated by many of the organizations that were here today, but a lot of them were fragmented – they were siloed,” she said.
“What we’re looking to do is truly reimagine and think about what we can do differently moving forward to make sure we actually have a coordinated system of care for people living with substance-use disorder and mental illness. What we’re looking for is something that is truly synergistic with what is available on the mainland. We want to build a continuum of care for people.”
Wu said the new campus would provide longer-term care for patients.
“We envision this as less so of a majority overnight just emergency shelter place to sleep,” she said, “and more of that comprehensive campus with a longer-term stay that provides for, as mentioned, all of the various needs that someone might have as they are living with substance use, which includes of course medical treatment and recovery and counseling and care but also that workforce development piece and all of the other parts of your life you can grow in and find stability in.”
Wu reiterated that the services on the island would be coordinated with each other.
“When there were different programs, each program kind of did their own thing and had their own base of individuals and patients they were working with. Sometimes people would go through multiple programs, but it was really kind of you come on the mainland and then if you have a spot in a program you’d go to that program,” Wu said.
“We envision this as a comprehensive, coordinated and very cohesive seamless flow of many providers and many helping hands envisioning what that whole spectrum of services looks like that will be perceived by patients and individuals as one and the same rather than this door and that door and that door.”
The city of Boston’s budget for the current fiscal year includes $40 million to stabilize the buildings on Long Island. Boston officials have said the total cost for the campus on the island won’t be determined until their plans are finalized.