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What Michelle Wu said about the Mass. & Cass Engagement Center and decentralizing addiction services

The center closed late last month after a series of stabbings were reported nearby.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu pauses during a ceremony at Boston City Hall, Nov. 16, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Mass. & Cass

Mayor Michelle Wu on Monday said city officials are working to add locations where people struggling with substance abuse and homelessness can access resources outside of the area known as Mass. and Cass.

Wu’s comments came after the city temporarily closed its Engagement Center in the neighborhood late last month following a series of stabbings reported nearby, including some within the shelter. The closing came only months after the center opened, as the city removed tent encampments in the area in a push to connect individuals with services and housing.

Since the closing, the center has not operated at full capacity, according to WBUR.

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On Monday, Wu, during an appearance on the radio station’s “Radio Boston,” said the city has so far placed about 180 people into housing, but crowds are again gathering in the area, posing safety challenges.

“We continue to see with the warming weather, large crowds gathering, and that has been difficult for public safety,” Wu said. “It’s been difficult because there are other issues that are connected to crowds.”

Asked if it’s not safe to have the center open, Wu said only that the center’s staff and the Boston Public Health Commission are working to increase access to resources and programming across the city and “not have everything concentrated in one place.”

“We are looking to add spots in different parts around the city or to coordinate with service providers who are already up and running in different parts of the city and to get transportation more closely coordinated,” Wu said. “But we’re working very quickly on that and want to make sure that in all parts of the city that there’s safety and that we can begin to expand the access and decentralize.”

Decentralizing the programs — which range from methadone clinics to other substance abuse treatment — has long been sought by local leaders.

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On the campaign trail last year, Wu called for a decentralization approach to the humanitarian crisis at Mass. and Cass.

Her plan outlined “a thoughtful approach to site substance use disorder recovery services and supportive housing throughout the city based on a hub and spoke model to avoid placing additional transportation burdens on people in need of multiple services.”

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