Baker's budget to include $1.4 million to combat drug trafficking
BOSTON >> When Gov. Charlie Baker unveils his annual budget proposal Wednesday afternoon, it will include $1.4 million in funding for state and local police, district attorneys and the attorney general to target drug traffickers, especially in the state's so-called gateway cities, an administration official said.
The governor will propose appropriating $800,000 to the state police, $400,000 to the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, and $200,000 to the Attorney General's Office for the efforts, the official said.
Last week, Baker told the Massachusetts Municipal Association's annual meeting that he would include "significant funding" to help law enforcement agencies disrupt the trafficking of drugs, particularly heroin, and to "really put the hammer down on these people."
Baker told municipal officials that his administration, in addition to working on prevention and recovery efforts, also wants to "support local communities that have had the most significant issues and problems associated with dealing with the people who are selling and distributing this stuff."
The funding is intended to benefit the state's gateway cities, which include Pittsfield, as well as Brockton, Chelsea, Chicopee, Fitchburg, Lynn, New Bedford, Taunton and Worcester, among others.
"I think targeted investments in that can yield some big benefits for all of those communities," Baker told the News Service last week. "If you talk to most of the folks who have told us that, for them, this is a real issue right now, it's typically those kinds of communities, so that's probably where we'll make the investment."
Addiction prevention and treatment have been focus areas for Baker and legislators looking for solutions to the state's opioid crisis. A conference committee is trying to hash out a consensus legislation.
During a Nov. 5 appearance on "Nightside" with Dan Rea on WBZ radio, House Speaker Robert DeLeo took a call from "Fred in Ipswich" who asserted that there's too little debate about stopping the flow of deadly drugs into Massachusetts.
After noting that drugs crossing state or international borders are a federal issue, DeLeo pointed out that Beacon Hill also delivers "extensive money" to the state police and cities and towns.
"Attacking this issue — Fred you're 100 percent right — is more than obviously taking care of those who need to be taken care of," DeLeo said. "Another big part about this is the fact of stopping the flow of the drugs into our area and seeing that those who are caught selling this stuff will be brought before a judge for justice. But yes, that is also one of the issues that we are addressing."
The House, Senate and Baker last year agreed to a law making fentanyl trafficking a crime. According to Attorney General Maura Healey, fentanyl is "the most potent opioid available for use in medical treatment and is estimated to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin."
Drug traffickers mix fentanyl with heroin. Citing federal data, a recent Centers for Disease Control advisory listed Massachusetts with second highest amount of fentanyl-related seizures, with 640 recorded in 2014.