Lynn state legislators back police over Baker

LYNN — State Sen. Thomas M. McGee and state reps Dan Cahill and Brendan Crighton are fighting Baker administration cuts to funding for the Lynn Police Department’s Behavioral Health Unit.

This program, along with several other local programs, including youth dental services and algae removal, were part of Gov. Baker’s $98 million “9c” spending cuts in December, McGee’s office stated in a release.

“I believe restoration of this funding is critical to our city and that’s why I have supported it in the budget,” said McGee. “The Lynn Police Department has established strong and effective relationships with many community partners. We cannot afford, socially or economically, to have money taken away from effective support programs like this or to interrupt the vital work being done.”

State health and human services spokesperson Michelle Hillman did not specifically address the police spending cut in a statement Thursday, but said the Baker administration has allocated millions of dollars during the last two years to pay for substance abuse prevention measures. That amount included $1.7 million to address drug trafficking in state-labeled Gateway Cities like Lynn.

“The Baker-Polito administration is fully committed to investing resources necessary to fight the opioid crisis. Spending for this fiscal year for substance use disorders will increase by $18 million to total $177 million. Since January 2016, the administration rolled out a new prescription-monitoring program, ended the practice of sending women to MCI-Framingham for treatment, expanded outpatient treatment, launched a prescription drop-off program, and doubled the number of Learn to Cope family support groups,” Hillman said.

The Behavioral Health Unit is located inside the Lynn Police station and provides overdose victims with access to licensed mental health and substance abuse clinicians. Additionally, the unit contacts overdose victims and known heroin addicts to provide assistance. In 2016, there were 443 overdoses in Lynn, which was an increase of 96 from 2015. The Behavioral Health Unit received 531 referrals in 2016 of which 85 percent were related to drug use.

“As we continue to fight the opioid epidemic, we can’t afford to lose valuable programs like Lynn’s Behavioral Health Unit,” said Crighton. “The unit both provides valuable services to those facing addiction and frees up our officers to focus on keeping our community safe.”

The Lynn delegation was able to secure $75,000 for the program and another $150,000 during the last two spending years prior to the budget cuts. The legislature is exploring options to restore the money, including a supplemental budget.

“Every family in Lynn has somehow been affected by the opioid epidemic,” said Cahill. “We must continue to fight to preserve every necessary resource to combat this crisis.”

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