City Council Calls on Surrounding Communities to Take Stock on Opioid Crisis and Work Together
The New Bedford City Council began the new year with a discussion on the SouthCoast's opioid crisis and how surrounding communities need to address it.
Ward 5 Councilor Kerry Winterson delivered some of his most passionate remarks Thursday evening, noting things have only just begun.
"We haven't even gotten to the plateau yet," Winterson said. "This is going to get worse before it gets better."
Winterson said officals from nearby communities such as Acushnet, Dartmouth, Fairhaven and Wareham need to "pull their heads out of the sand" and take responsibility for their own residents battling addiction, since the city's resources are "being exhausted due to the influx of residents of these surrounding towns coming into New Bedford and expending our services."
"I'm sick and tired of the denial factor going on here," Winterson said of town officials. "It's time to start working together and stop blaming New Bedford for the problem."
Winterson proposed a letter be sent to officials in Freetown, Acushnet, Dartmouth, Mattapoisett, Marion, Fairhaven and Wareham, asking for information on what types of planning they've put in place to address the current opioid crisis, including plans for inpatient or outpatient services.
The Council approved Winterson's motion 9-0. Ward 6 Councilor Joe Lopes and Ward 3 Councilor Henry Bousquet we absen due to prior commitments.
Other councilors weighed in on the issue, including Ward 6 Councilor Dana Rebeiro, who isn't against people seeking treatment in the city, as long as there's greater oversight and regulation and facilities play a more supportive role to patients.
"These facilities are holes, and people keep falling out of these holes," said Rebeiro, referring to the practice of individuals being kicked out of treatment facilities after a relapse.
Rebeiro believes an independent local body should oversee treatment centers and sober houses, and hold them accountable for their actions as well as the patients' actions.
Councilor at Large Naomi Carney raised issue with taxpayer resources going toward "Band-Aids," such as the overdose-reversal drug Narcan, when senior citizens can't afford to buy medication due to high tax rates.
"Something needs to be done. All this money is going out but our taxes are going up," Carney said.
Winterson closed by urging residents of surrounding towns to contact their legislative delegations to allocate funds for their own treatment facilities.
"You're going to need these in your towns - New Bedford is going to be pretty packed as it is," said Winterson.