BOSTON — Boston Mayor-elect Michelle Wu has named Dr. Monica Bharel as the new cabinet-level senior advisor to address the intersecting crises of substance use disorder, mental health, public safety and homelessness.
Dr. Bharel, the former commissioner of the Department of Public Health, who helped steer Massachusetts through the COVID-19 pandemic, will now lead Boston’s response to the crisis in the area around known as Mass and Cass.
Mass and Cass, also known as Methadone Mile or Recovery Road, is a tent city and open air drug market based around the intersection of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue in Boston. It has been described as a place of “misery after misery.”
“The humanitarian crisis at Mass and Cass demands urgent, bold solutions that create genuine pathways to recovery and stability for our most vulnerable residents — and we need the right team to get it done,” WCVB 5 quoted Wu as saying.
Dr. Bharel stepped down as Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services in June this year.
Appointed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker in 2015, Dr. Bharel steered the Department of Public Health through significant public health challenges including the opioid epidemic, vaping associated lung disease, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The longest serving Commissioner of Public Health since 1997, Commissioner Bharel brought a health equity lens to all of the Department’s work.
Commissioner Bharel is a primary care physician with over 20 years of clinical experience. She holds a Master’s in public health in health care management and policy.