BOSTON (WHDH) - Massachusetts state lawmakers are considering a plan to help people with mental health and substance abuse issues by possibly putting a recovery facility on a decommissioned ship.
The idea was born, in part, with the goal of assisting those living near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard in Boston. Speaking this week, state senators said they believe such a move could revolutionize the way Massachusetts battles the opioid crisis.
“What’s happening isn’t working,” said Sen. John Velis. “We can and must do better. Human beings are dying.”
The state senate recently passed a budget amendment proposed by Sen. Nick Collins that would set aside funding for a study looking into the decommissioned ship proposal.
“It could be a one-stop shop for those suffering at Mass & Cass, and for anyone suffering from mental health and substance abuse challenges,” Collins said.
Collins continued, saying the vessel would offer medical services to patients and provide housing for anyone being treated on board.
While his idea was created with the crisis at Mass and Cass in mind, the issue, lawmakers say, is statewide.
“Many of the people who were in that area, that Mass & Cass immediate area, weren’t from that area, weren’t from Boston proper, if you will,” Velis said.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu reacted to the proposal on Thursday, saying she is eager to learn more.
“We all need to be doing our part — city, state, federal — to tackle this because it is spilling over into every community,” she said.
Collins said he was inspired after reading a study from MIT earlier this year where researchers commissioned the US Navy to look into converting a cruise ship into affordable housing. The study ultimately determined it was “a feasible and creative approach to address the housing crisis.”
The upfront cost, according to the study, would be about $122 million, with annual operation costs estimated at $4 million.
While Collins said he doesn’t know the cost for his proposal, he said the need is urgent.
“This study will give us a sense of cost and capabilities,” he said. “But, I think if any place can accomplish this, it’s Massachusetts.”
Discussion of a medical vessel to help those in need in Massachusetts isn’t a new concept. In 1894, local doctors created what they called a “floating hospital” in Boston Harbor to serve poor children in the area.
Well over a century later, the state senate’s budget amendment now heads to the state house of representatives, where it will need to be approved before heading to the governor’s desk.
If the matter is approved, it would allocate $50,000 to study the feasibility of a modern medical vessel.
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