GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

August 29, 2013

Letter: Cutbacks could cost lives


Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor,

In regards to Lahey Health dropping programs that were not based in Gloucester, that may be true, but they were funded to provide services in Gloucester and other parts of Cape Ann.

The HIV housing program has housed many folks from the city of Gloucester over the last 20 years. The rape help-line was also utilized by residents of Cape Ann. The Prism Program provided support services for the gay community in our area. The Healthy Streets Outreach Program (which I will focus on) was not only funded to provide these services in Gloucester, it had a satellite office in the city for three or four years.

Before CAB Health and Recovery Services received funding from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, HES provided these services, so the outreach had been going on in our city for over 16 years. It was no accident that the providers offered these services and the state funded them; it is because rates of HIV, hepatitis C, and opioid overdose are disproportionately high in our neighborhood.

Many of the members of these populations have seen services for themselves cut by big hospitals and may have just come to accept it as business as usual, and though I’m sure some of these services may get picked up by others, a slow-down, reorganization, or stoppage of services will cost lives.

As an example, when Gloucester received MassCall2 monies to address the opioid overdose problem in the community, CAB had its satellite office located in Gloucester which could provide Narcan to people at risk of overdose along with their family and friends. Gloucester went from being in the top 10 communities reporting fatal overdose to not being in the top 15 communities reporting fatal overdose. That work has been phased out over the past two years from three days a week to one day a week to a half a day a week to zero. I hope we can continue to improve on this issue without access to overdose prevention tools for this group of folks.

As for outreach not being a hospital job, it has been done by Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Medical Center for some time now.

So as we — and local people who used to be employed at these programs and had a vested interest in their neighbors, families and friends — are abandoned yet again by another large hospital chain. It talks about services being picked up by other agencies which are located in Cambridge. Do you buy for a minute that services will go on as needed?

Lahey talks about not spreading it thin and not being an expert in everything. Well, after looking at the programs that were cut and the funding source (state grants), it seems that these programs did not bring in the needed revenue it takes to make up the six-figure salaries of Lahey’s officers. The dropped programs only saved lives.

Gary Langis

Washington Street

Gloucester

Editor’s note: Langis was an organizer of Wednesday night’s Overdose Vigil, held on Stacy Boulevard.