Floating recovery hospital an idea well worth launching
The state Senate has backed a proposal to explore converting a decommissioned ship to provide mental health and recovery services, and I say it’s a good first step.
The Senate plan calls on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s naval construction and marine engineering program to examine the feasibility of a floating hospital to address urgent mental health needs, which would help us address the situation at Mass and Cass.
And I support it, because we need to do something. There are people suffering at that intersection, people are suffering across every neighborhood in our city, and to do less than our level best to alleviate that pain is beneath us. Using a ship is the least we can do.
I know firsthand the feeling of getting a phone call that Long Island was being shut down while a loved one was being cared for there. While my family was lucky enough to emerge from that trauma, others have had a tougher time. And the chaos and worry of those few hours is lived daily by the loved ones of those at Mass and Cass. Those suffering there are people, too, the ones many pity through their car window as they drive past. Those struggling have families, loved ones, people who are worried for them.
So it’s time to look outside the box, like repurposing a ship to provide shelter and care for our most vulnerable. For too long, every proposed solution to the gaping wound has been shot down, for one reason or another. We need to stop being a city of “no way,” and start being a city of “let’s give it a shot.”
This city is smart enough to make it work particularly where the needs of our most vulnerable are concerned.
So let’s talk about a ship that offers wraparound services to those who need it most. That begins to chip away at the inequities that have confronted them. Let’s offer a solution.
Dramatic? Norm-bending, particularly for a city that rightfully prides itself on world-class medical facilities and care? Even desperate?
Damn right. Because anything less than the most searching measures in the face of the tragedy unfolding in the heart of our city means we’re not trying hard enough.
Mass and Cass is a blight on all of us. When a situation has grown so pitiable and pathetic that it’s on its second nickname because the first was too callous — remember “Methadone Mile”? — it’s past time to get creative and start finding, and enacting, solutions.
And, nine years after the bridge to Long Island was deemed unsafe, we still don’t have an answer for them.
The Senate plan, which is spearheaded by Senator Nick Collins, would go into addressing acute and chronic health needs, providing mental health, behavioral health, dental, primary and specialty care for the people who need it most, meeting them where they are, and offering what they require. As an At-Large City Councilor who represents every person in this city regardless of petty demographic delineation, how can we say no to that?
By working with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to address the practicalities, dealing with our other neighborhood partners to speak to those concerns, and working with health professionals to assist the at-risk people, we can capitalize on an unconventional idea and help the people who need helping.
A “floating ship” to address the needs of our most vulnerable is clearly not the panacea that some people are seeking. There is no panacea, no silver bullet. What we need is a holistic approach that shrugs off stigmas, ignores the outdated social taboos, and embraces the solutions. If launching a ship to get us on the high seas to recovery gets us there, I support it.
Mass and Cass has gone on for far too long. I’m there a lot, because I am the Chair of Public Health, Mental Health and Homelessness, but more importantly because I care, because I’ve dealt with it on a human level, and because they’re my constituents. And the prospect of a functioning detox or recovery facility on Long Island is a long way away. It’s too far away for the most vulnerable among us to wait, too far away for their families to wait, and too far away for us — the greatest medical city in the world — to put it off any longer.
And if welcoming those folks onto a cruise ship, with an allexpenses paid pass to get their lives in order, is the ticket to board, then sign me up.