Andover to Increase Mental Health Resources | News

ANDOVER — City officials and residents are proposing to devote more resources to mental health services this coming year.

City officials have earmarked more than $200,000 to create a new division, while a citizens’ group is asking for $1 million in appropriations through a petitioned article that will be voted on at the city assembly.

City Manager Andrew Flanagan’s budget, released shortly after the tenure article was published, proposes a similar “welfare and support services” division within the Community Services Department that will be overseen by a volunteer board, Flanagan said. The new department will cost Andover taxpayers $106,885 while using $100,000 in state money with additional funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to create the programs.

The city department would also reallocate the salary of the former police department’s community support coordinator whose position has been vacant since last summer, according to the budget.

“The city is moving forward with the hiring of a licensed clinician who will serve not only as a service provider, but also as the coordinator of the city’s social work, mental health and addictions resources. This division will serve as a “hub” for these types of services and will better align the city’s overall strategy to meet the changing needs of the community,” according to the budget.

The residents’ requested warrant that asks for $1 million from the city’s “free money” fund to be used to support mental health services was added to the ballot by longtime resident Michael Meyers.

Meyers and compatriot Jose ‘Joe’ Albuquerque, who also worked on the mandate elements, said the city’s proposed budget was not enough.

“This would allow the city or schools to access this funding as needed for additional support or resources such as a licensed clinician, nurse, social worker, crisis coordinator or recovery coach. For example, research on the effects of past pandemics and disasters clearly indicates that there will be immediate and long-term adverse consequences for many children,” Albuquerque said. “It is very disappointing that the city manager decided that only $250,000 – or 2% of the (city’s cut) $10.9 million American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) – should be allocated to contracted services of behavioral health and staffing over the next four years.

Andover has approximately $8 million in its “free cash” account, according to the city budget. However, it’s usually reserved for single-use projects, Flanagan said.

Flanagan views the city’s budget proposal creating the new department as “the most meaningful way to address these needs in the community.”

The proposed department will be incorporated into the city’s operating budget, which will be one of the first items discussed at the June 11 town meeting. The $1 million proposal will be discussed towards the end of the day as one of the last items in a series. of five articles of mandate proposed by Meyers and Albuquerque.

The two men were part of a group of about 20 families, which added this and four other items to the warrant. Three of the elements of the mandate are proposed changes to city rules that promote “transparency,” Meyers said. The other item is $500,000 for raises for school district teacher aides, who have been in contract negotiations and without a contract for more than a year and a half.

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