Essaibi George Announces Updated Plan for Mass and Cass Amongst Frontline Workers and Organizations

Special to the Times-Free Press

Amongst frontline workers, labor unions representing city workers, and local leaders, At-Large City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George today released an updated policy plan outlining immediate actions to tackle the devastation at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard (Mass and Cass) if elected Mayor of Boston. In the plan, Essaibi George calls for a Public Health Emergency Zone for the Mass and Cass area to create a special, singular district for streamlined service delivery and increased capacity for responsiveness.

During the announcement on Southampton Street, Essaibi George received new endorsements from SEIU 888 and SENA 9158, which represent thousands of city workers on the frontlines of Mass and Cass, and District 3 City Councilor Frank Baker, whose district includes parts of the Mass and Cass area. They joined the Massachusetts Nurses Association, Boston EMS Union, and AFSCME 93, all who have previously endorsed Essaibi George’s candidacy, to underscore their commitment to address this crisis through a coordinated, multifaceted response alongside an Essaibi George Administration.

“I have the relationships, the knowledge, the experience to tackle Mass & Cass on Day One. You cannot say the same about Michelle Wu. This is not an issue you can tackle from afar. It requires a presence and firsthand understanding. It requires tough decisions and action, not more stalling. It requires collaboration and partnership with those on the ground doing the work day in and day out,” said Essaibi George. “Mass and Cass has received a lot of attention during this race, and that’s a good thing. But I have one, honest question: Will the attention still be here on November 3? I’m here to say very loudly and clearly that under an Essaibi George Administration, yes it will. My work in this space reflects that.”

“SEIU Local 888 represents many of the Boston city workers who are working on the frontlines of Mass and Cass. We know that to better this city it’s not enough to sit in the Mayor’s Office and avoid the hard truth. We need a Mayor that shows up and does so without fanfare—that person is Annissa Essaibi George,” said Thomas McKeever, President of SEIU Local 888. “This plan demonstrates Annissa’s commitment to leading with those doing the work and we’re proud to be with her in this race.”

“Like so many other areas in the City of Boston, when it comes to addressing the public health crisis at Mass and Cass we simply can’t wait for the next Mayor to spend her time familiarizing herself with the issues before she gets to work,” said District 3 City Councilor Frank Baker. “Annissa knows this area, the people, and the partners we need to bring in. She is the only candidate who is ready to take immediate action on Day One to end this devastation. I’m so proud to stand with her today and to support her in this race.”

“SENA 9158 is proud to endorse Annissa Essaibi George for Mayor. Our members are there at Mass and Cass, and Annissa is the partner we need to fight for safe working conditions and ensure decisions are made in collaboration with those doing the work,” said Joseph Smith, President of Salaried Employees of North America (SENA) 9158.

Throughout her time on the Council, Essaibi George has been a leader on the issues of homelessness, mental health, and substance use disorder. She founded the Committee on Homelessness, Mental Health and Recovery in 2016 with the goal of spotlighting these three specific issues, and has continued her advocacy in this space.

Essaibi George turned this advocacy into action, sponsoring the first ever Needle Take Back Day in the City of Boston, passing an ordinance to create 100 additional sites for safe needle disposal, securing funding to increase the number of B.E.S.T clinicians that support residents during a mental health crisis, and creating the first Special Commission to End Family Homelessness in the City of Boston through her ordinance which was unanimously passed by the Boston City Council.

Essaibi George released a policy plan focused on tackling the citywide opioid epidemic in April. That plan has been updated to reflect her various conversations with those not only doing the work at Mass and Cass, but with lived experiences in this space.

*The full plan is attached and will uploaded on shortly.*

The city of Boston continues to be the primary destination for support services for individuals in recovery, and because of this, continues to bear the burden of this crisis. The concentration of recovery services at Mass and Cass alone has caused our resources to reach their breaking point.  Decisive, urgent action and a regional response is desperately needed to address this public health crisis, repair the continuum of care, and help individuals access recovery.

While Annissa has focused much of her work on the City Council around the issues of mental health, substance use disorder and homelessness, the powers that come with the Mayor’s Office allow for more effective and efficient action on day one.

As Mayor, Annissa will immediately direct the Boston Public Health Commission to declare a Public Health Emergency within a one mile radius of the intersection of Mass and Cass. This will allow for a streamlined response from first responders and city agencies, as well as better service delivery and improved capacity for responsiveness. The zone will be overseen by a Mass and Cass Czar who will report directly to the Mayor’s Office, and work in partnership with city and state agencies on a coordinated response. The Czar will also be tasked with decentralizing services from Mass and Cass to affect long-term, sustainable change, reopening the comfort station that was available to individuals during the pandemic, and convening a Harm Reduction Working Group to evaluate harm reduction strategies, including everything from availability of narcan to safe injection facilities. 

Annissa will also direct a portion of the federal funding coming to Boston to implement a Public Health Surge at Mass and Cass.his would include a multi-day, coordinated effort between several city, state, and private agencies to provide direct services to individuals in need. Services could include: medical and wound care, dental care, hygiene services, eye exams/glasses, an opportunity for reunification, referral for additional services, and an immediate opportunity to enter detox with the promise of a recovery bed.

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