STATE REP RACE Q&A: Mike McCoy Discusses Economic Development, Opioid Epidemic

WILMINGTON, MA — Wilmington Apple is asking weekly questions to the seven candidates running in contested primaries for the Wilmington/Tewksbury State Representative seat (19th Middlesex).

Below, in his own words, are the responses to this week’s questions from candidate Mike McCoy (D-Wilmington).

#7) What will you do as State Representative to help individuals and families in Tewksbury, Wilmington and beyond who are struggling as a result of the opioid epidemic? 

The opioid epidemic is clearly one of the most significant issues facing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts today. In 2016 we lost 2149 of our friends, relatives and neighbors to this plague. The National Institute of Health estimates a 700 Billion dollar annual cost of opioid addiction in America. It would be difficult to find a family who has not felt the painful sting of this curse on our nation.

Federal and state governments have responded in a predictable and well-intended fashion. They are providing funding to combat the epidemic. While this is noble and at first glance seems like a good idea, it needs work to achieve the expected outcome. “Throwing money at a problem” rarely fixes it. As history has repeatedly demonstrated, this simplistic approach can frequently make a bad situation worse. It may promote “Band-Aid” fixes that fail to deal with root cause issues.

In North Wilmington and more recently in Falmouth, there has been a lot of turmoil regarding the placement of detox facilities adjacent to residential areas. This is a prime example of how ill-thought out solutions driven by compassion have created a problem that did not exist before. Last year I took up the cause of the Concerned Citizens of Wilmington to develop a “Win-Win” solution for the residents as well as the victims of the opioid epidemic. The proposed location for a drug/alcohol detox facility at 362 Middlesex Avenue suits neither the best interests of the area residents nor the victims. Proximity to a residential area raises statistically substantiated concerns about safety. National real-estate numbers would project a 17% decrease in property values. From a patient perspective, the location is not serene and quiet. Middlesex Avenue is well-traveled and the railroad tracks that abut the proposed site also generate noise 24/7. There is a bar and store that sells liquor just across the street. At my suggestion, the Concerned Citizens requested a special town meeting sponsoring an article that will allow detox and medical facilities into previously restricted highway and general industrial zones subject to a special permit from the local board of appeals. These areas are more isolated, quieter, and much more conducive to treatment. The article also protects residential areas. I like “Win-Win” solutions.

Another problem that has developed with the influx of government funds is people seeing a way to make a “Fast-Buck”. Florida has seen the worst of it. As an example, in 2016, CIGNA Insurance pulled out of the Florida Health Insurance Exchange citing an exponential increase in fraudulent and abusive care delivery practices in 2015. Most of the facilities are well-run and legitimate. Sadly, the amount of funding available draws charlatans into the detox and rehabilitation industry. As a MA State Representative, high on my list of priorities will be to better regulate this industry and provide strict regulations and watchdog oversite of this new, but burgeoning, industry.

I have researched the opioid and consulted with subject matter professionals. I have come to the conclusion that there is no single magic bullet. Several years ago Governor Baker said that the opioid epidemic is a multi-faceted problem. The Falmouth Police Chief, Ed Dunne, said, “The opioid epidemic is not a police problem. It is a community problem.” Both of these gentlemen have hit the proverbial nail on the head.

Accordingly, I advocate for broad-based community coalitions developing and implementing realistic, multifaceted plans of attack to identify the root cause issues fueling the epidemic and to develop solutions that will mitigate this plague. The coalition may include subject matter experts from law enforcement, health care, social workers, EMT’s, other first responders, rehabilitation experts, local government officials, clergy and victims to include family members. The coalition should have one vision and mission statement, but beyond that, form action teams to develop and implement plans in teams of subject matter experts with complementing training and experience. From my perspective, the crisis is broken into two major components: Supply and demand. Supply side issues to be addressed by action teams may include illegal supply (the sale and illegal distribution of opioids) and legal supply (addiction fueled by legally prescribed opioids). Drug dealers need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law rather than just a slap on the wrist. From a demand standpoint, action teams may include community education, drug awareness in schools, increasing awareness in medical professionals, helping those in rehabilitation and partnering with other MA based coalitions for best-practice research.

It is my hope and belief that with the right leadership on Beacon Hill, we can formulate legislation that will ensure effective health care delivery to the victims of this epidemic while ensuring a fiscally sound and responsible community-based solution.

#8a) What will you do as State Representative to help attract and maintain small and large businesses in Wilmington and Tewksbury?

Local and regional economic development is essential to the business engine of the Wilmington/Tewksbury area. There is much to be done and opportunities to be leveraged in this arena. However, as I have mentioned in previous responses, our economic development strategy cannot be haphazard. It must be well thought-out, fueling responsible growth while safeguarding the best interests of the residents of Wilmington and Tewksbury. The Planning Boards of both towns really need to take a hard look and do a better job when it comes to development that abut residential areas and affect the towns overall character of both communities. It’s unfortunate that citizens sometimes have to take matters into their own hands whether it’s calling for a special town meeting, or attending various board meetings in great numbers in hopes of getting input into the decisions of their own boards which are supposed to be making decisions in the best interest of all the residents of the community rather than just a select few. Striking a healthy balance is crucial. Ask anybody who has spent way too much time sitting in traffic on Route 38 or 62. A well-considered strategy will strengthen local government revenue and provide great employment opportunities for the residents of Wilmington and Tewksbury.

If I am fortunate enough to be voted your state representative, I will be instrumental in leveraging the workforce training fund program, which is a Massachusetts based program that helps address business productivity and competitiveness by providing resources to Massachusetts businesses fund training for current and newly-hired employees. It can help existing businesses in the Wilmington/Tewksbury business community become more profitable and competitive through increased effectiveness and efficiency. As state representative, increasing awareness of this program will be high on my “to-do list”.

I will work on the formation of an Economic Development Industrial Corporation (EDIC). EDIC’s are quasi-public entities established by a municipality either through Chapter 121C of the Massachusetts General Law or through a special act of the legislature through home-rule petition. I am advocating for the creation of a Wilmington/Tewksbury EDIC. The mission of this organization would be to stimulate economic development and expand employment opportunities for the towns of Wilmington and Tewksbury in accordance with the town’s approved economic development plans. As a member of the Wilmington Board of Selectmen, I did support the economic development plan of our tri-town off Ballardvale Street in Wilmington which consists of Wilmington, Tewksbury and Andover. This was accomplished by local, state and federal factions of government over a decade ago. With all three towns working together, economic growth of Ballardvale Street was achieved. Because of the improvement of Ballardvale Street, we were able to relocate a newer, and better accessible exit off of Route 93 near the Ballardvale Street/Target area.

#8b) Do you consider yourself a business-friendly candidate? Why?

Yes. My main reason is that businesses help subsidize the residential tax rate. Without business and industry, our residential tax rate would be considerably higher than they are today. As a member of the Wilmington Board of Selectmen, I’ve always voted the maximum tax shift upon the commercial businesses. By doing so, this gives residents of Wilmington a better and more affordable residential property tax bill. That being said, we need to be cautious and very careful of how we develop our community because the last thing we want to do is turn our two great towns into cities.

BONUS FUN QUESTION: Wilmington Town Meeting voters recently banned plastic bags at grocery and retail stores, due – in large part – to their negative effects to the environment. The ban goes into effect in May 2019.  Do you agree with Wilmington voters and would you like Tewksbury voters to do the same this fall at their Special Town Meeting?

This is a tough question and it’s not so fun to answer, actually; however it deserves an answer. Town Meeting votes are sacred and must be upheld no matter what. I may not always agree with the vote of the town meeting, but I accept the outcome. For myself personally, I like the plastic bags. They are easy to carry which can result in fewer trips back to the car after shopping at Market Basket. I reuse the bags for a myriad of things including, but not limited to, cat litter box changes, waste basket liners, seat covers when sitting on a chair with a wet bathing suit, etc. For ethical and environmental reasons, however, I get it and eliminating plastic bags are a greener, more earth friendly way to go and for those reasons, I agree with the Wilmington voters. Should the Tewksbury voters decide to do the same for environmental reasons, I would absolutely support that vote as well.

(NOTE: Do you have a question for the candidates? Email wilmingtonapple@gmail.com and it may be asked in a future Q&A or in a debate.)

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