The following commentary is by Boston City Councilors Bill Linehan and Frank Baker regarding a proposed home rule petition to fund addiction recovery through an alcohol tax in the city of Boston.
The effects of substance abuse in Boston are eroding the foundations of our neighborhoods. The results of this epidemic burden our public safety systems, police, fire and EMS services. It fills our emergency rooms at hospitals, strains our shelters, and can tear at the fabric of entire communities. Excessive alcohol consumption has been estimated to cost government 75 cents per drink in Massachusetts. We are proud to introduce a home rule petition to fund recovery through a 2 percent tax on all alcohol sold in the City of Boston. The first hearing will be held May 27th at 11 a.m. in the Iannella Chamber at City Hall.
Boston needs a comprehensive coordinated effort that can connect those in need of recovery to those providing recovery services. The Office of Recovery recently developed by Mayor Walsh can be an important tool to battle addiction. It needs to be positioned properly and adequately financed to impact the size and scope of the problem. But we all must contribute.
The cost of addiction in the City of Boston is enormous. Seventy percent of those in corrections have abused substances. One-quarter of emergency hospital visits, one-third of all suicides, and one-half of all murders and domestic violence acts are alcohol-related. These statistics are indicative of the impacts on our criminal justice and medical service systems.
Alcohol is the first substance used by most suffering from addiction and it’s legal for those over the ages of 21 in Boston. Active addiction rips through families, separating parents from children and leaving a destructive path of unintentional victims. Programs such as welfare and social services are needed to protect their families while they struggle, adding to the burden.
We believe strongly that a 2 percent tax on all alcohol served in the City of Boston would be the game changer. In 2010, Boston residents voted 66 percent to 34 percent to keep a 6.25 percent tax on off premise alcohol sales. Our proposal is a much more modest percentage and spreads the responsibility to all alcohol sales. Twenty cents on a $10 martini or 12 cents on a six-pack at the liquor store could be the investment we need to reduce the cost and burden on all of us. Two percent would generate over $20 million specifically for pathways to recovery. Prevention, intervention and treatment are the three components of effective measures to decrease the impact of abuse through deterrence, guidance and care.
As district City Councilors, who represent neighbors feeling the impacts of substance abuse and addiction, we believe that those of us who enjoy food and drink with family and friends would not blink at the 2 percent investment. The potential impact of such a contribution by all of us who collectively consume alcohol would be significant.
Join us in providing a path to recovery for Boston. Every time we raise a glass, let’s change the game for those who are suffering as well as their family who share this burden. The revenue created through this effort will increase the effectiveness of long-term treatment, by adding proactive steps and educating our children through prevention programs in our schools. In addition, it creates a centralized database of resources to connect people suffering and their families to the help they need, by employing staff to provide information and guidance in crisis situations.
The revenue will increase capacity and prolong time in treatment, increasing success. Boston’s recovery systems need resources that this tax will provide, saving money and lives along the way.
Sponsored by Boston City Council President Bill Linehan & Councilor Frank Baker