Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, her two sons and mental health specialists and substance abuse providers took a boat ride to Long Island in Boston Harbor Wednesday to tour the abandoned recovery center on the island.
The island is now only accessible by water. Wu, though, recently received licensing to rebuild a bridge to the property as part of a larger effort to repair buildings and reopen the recovery center campus to create a place to help people fighting addiction.
Wu and others spoke after their tour about next steps.
“I can’t help but remember people who gained success…who healed and transformed their lives,” Victory Programs Executive Director Sarah Porter said.
Porter is one of the many who worked on Long Island ten years ago, before the facility closed, providing services to people battling drug addiction.
The previous bridge to the 35-acre public health campus was found unsafe, and the site was abandoned in 2014. While 7NEWS walked through the buildings Wednesday, it looked like people had been immediately evacuated.
A pool game was still set on a table and food from a vending machine was scattered nearby. There were wheelchairs left in halls and beds with blankets in rooms. Weather and time had ruined walls, ceilings and floor boards.
The growing opioid crisis has put 200 people on the streets in Boston near Massachusetts and Melnea Cass Boulevard. Now, the city wants to reopen Long Island to better address the needs of many people currently living in tents in the area.
“We would love to provide services – people who are entering Long Island – who need detox, treatment services and then workforce development,” said Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, the Boston Public Health Commissioner.
The plan is to use $40 million of city funds to renovate and stabilize 11 buildings on Long Island. Up to 500 beds on the property could be ready and open in four years.
“We really envision this not just as an overnight, emergency shelter and that’s it, but more of a comprehensive campus with that longer stay that provides for various needs someone may have with substance abuse,” Wu said.
The city of Boston has said it has a design in mind for upcoming work, adding that it plans to begin construction in 2024.
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