Local overdoses, mental health calls

10/15/20223 min read

Local overdoses, mental health calls Every quarter, the Public Safety & Transportation Committee, which I chair, reviews data from the Police Department. Our latest review focused on police calls related to mental health, domestic abuse and substance abuse (full report here).

The data is concerning: mental health calls seem to be increasing (the 2022 data in the chart is only through August), perhaps reflecting national trends.

In addition, overdoses, including fatal ones, appear to be increasing year over year locally and statewide.
One reason appears to be the increasing contamination of illegally obtained drugs with fentanyl. State data shows that 93% of overdose deaths have fentanyl present. The NIH has found fentanyl in powders like cocaine and other street drugs.

In December, PS&T will talk with Chief Carmichael and Health Commissioner Linda Walsh to get more in-depth information about the city’s response to substance abuse disorder and mental health calls: the Crisis Intervention Team.

Cool articles I’ve read this month (please feel free to share your recommendations!):

Safety Zones
This month I was pleased to nominate and vote for three additional 20 mph safety zones in Newton--these zones are applicable where we see a lot of people walking or biking and need traffic to go slowly. They have been hugely popular with nearby neighbors.

Streets Covered:
Albemarle Road near Day Middle School & the new Early Childhood Center
Allen Ave near Richardson Field
Beethoven Ave near Zervas School
Brandeis Rd near Newton South HS
Chestnut St. from Bobby Braceland Park to Upper Falls Village Center
Dudley Road
East Side Parkway near Cabot School
Ellis St. near Hemlock Gorge
Lincoln Street near Newton Highlands village & Hyde park
Walnut Street near Newton North HS & Newtonville center
Lake Ave near Crystal Lake
Homer St. near City Hall & the Library
Watertown through Nonantum center

All of these were championed by the councilors from the ward, and many were also suggested by the School Transportation Working Group.

Road Work
Our next PS&T meeting is Oct. 19. I am planning to include discussions about traffic calming efforts so far, and what we have learned about how well various installations have worked.
Chestnut St. between Beacon and Commonwealth will remain a construction zone through the spring. The city doesn’t have a sidewalk contractor or a paving contractor yet. So hold on and take it slow in this stretch!
Other Council News

  • Weigh in on Village Center zoning ideas before October 16. Helpful video explainer (10 minutes) here.

  • Two proposals are before city council to strengthen the tree ordinance—both would increase the penalties for cutting mature trees on private property without replanting the same amount of trunk-diameter trees elsewhere. Both exempt dead, diseased and dangerous trees and trees cut as part of a special permit. And both protect nearby trees’ root zones.

Our current ordinance allows homeowners to cut trees on their property if they remain in the home for a set period of time before and after the cutting without paying anyone but the arborist—aka they are exempt.
The council proposal, which I signed on to before all the details were spelled out, would extend the penalties to all trees over 55” in diameter at breast height, and allow neighbors to weigh in against cutting.
Our mature trees provide more than shade and beauty: they absorb carbon and suck up stormwater, soften noises, provide habitat. But is the balance of increased oversight and penalties right? How much is too much to pay to cut down a tree? Should we waive the fee for cutting trees like Norway Maples, which shade out native trees that provide more habitat and food for local birds? What else should we know?

I welcome your thoughts!