Sen. Barry Finegold has joined a growing chorus of support for the hiring of a counselor to help combat the rising problem of drug abuse in town.
Finegold, an Andover resident, called the town Youth Services Department’s request for a $60,000 social worker/addiction counselor a “vital one that should be funded in the town budget this year.”
“As a state, we are facing an opiate epidemic,” Finegold said in a letter to The Townsman. “We must find ways to reach kids before they start down the path of drug addiction ... and the inclusion of this job in the town budget is critical to making that happen.”
Finegold, who is running as a Democrat for state treasurer, is the latest to criticize the actions of Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski and other officials, who have recommended cutting the position.
“Addiction does not discriminate — it hits our suburbs and our cities alike — and our young people are particularly susceptible to falling prey to it,” Finegold said. “Last year alone, we lost two young Andover residents to heroin. The town of Needham has lost three high school students this year to drug overdoses. This is not only tragic, it is unacceptable.”
Andover Youth Services Executive Director Bill Fahey earlier this year made the request in his budget for a $60,000 social worker so his department could respond to what he says has become a public health emergency here and across the state — addiction to heroin and other opiates. In addition to at least two deaths of young Andover residents attributed to heroin overdoses last year, he said there were many more close calls.
When the Board of Selectmen approved the $160 million town budget last week, the position had been dropped, although several selectmen were concerned about the cut.
“The most important position we can vote on tonight is getting someone with training in substance abuse,” Selectman Dan Kowalski said. “Fahey put it forward. The town manager cut it out. It’s a policy decision. Do you want to have an individual there who is going to help the community?”