ANDOVER — The Board of Selectmen have approved paying for a social worker in the Youth Services department who will specialize in reaching out to young people and families dealing with addiction.
The board voted 3-1 last week in favor of asking Town Manager Reginald ‘Buzz’ Stapczynski to find $54,000 in the budget to pay for a program coordinator in Andover Youth Services.
The position had been cut from the budget originally proposed by Stapczynski and approved last week by selectmen.
But some board members had second thoughts, especially in the face of a spike in heroin overdoses and deaths in Andover and across the Merrimack Valley and the rest of the state.
“With all the difficulties we’ve had with heroin and the extra burden it puts on Andover Youth Services ... they (AYS staff) are drowning because of this extra effort,” said Selectman Brian Major, who led the effort to restore the position. “We need to figure out how to add that position back into the budget. This is critically important.”
The lone vote against the proposal came from newly elected Selectman Mary O’Donoghue. She argued that the budget had already been voted on and the position cut. She also felt that more study was needed before a decision could be made.
“We haven’t had a broader discussion of this important issue,” she said. “We need to get the right people in place at the right place. This is not a good idea at all.”
Stapczynski was also lukewarm to the idea.
“I’m not convinced we need someone to deal with heroin,” he said. “That’s a knee-jerk reaction. What I’m hearing, perhaps, is that you need another well-trained youth worker who can deal with families who are struggling.”
Bill Fahey, executive director of AYS, said the debate was “getting confused,” agreeing with Stapczynski that what his department needed was a “community support person” who would “most likely be a social worker ... who would advocate for young people and their families.”