Essex County District Attorney Paul F. Tucker has made taking care of first responders one of his office’s priorities.
The district attorney, appearing on WHAV’s “Win for Breakfast” program Wednesday, discussed the importance of paying attention to mental health issues, saying he looks at it in two ways.
“I will say Chief (Robert P.) Pistone in Haverhill has does an excellent job with a very, very good department. I look at the mental health issue through two lenses…when I was the police chief in Salem, we actually created something called ‘The Community Impact Unit,’ where we brought mental health clinicians to ride with the police officers. This was back in 2009. I think we were one of the first departments to do that, so working with folks that have these mental health issues and, unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve seen the height of the problem yet, coming out of COVID,” he said.
Tucker, who took office in January, also is concerned about the mental health of first responders—something he was able to work on during four terms when he served as a state representative.
“We need to make sure we are taking care of the people who take care of us. I had the good fortune at the State House to work with many of the police departments and create critical incident stress management programs, peer counseling, so there is a recognition that police officers, firefighters, EMS that we need to make sure we’re taking care of these folks. For too long it was just something that we expected people—‘Oh, that’s just part of the job’—and just sort of ‘take it.’ We’ve been enlightened—I think that’s the right word—enlightened to make sure we take care of these folks,” he added.
Tucker is also troubled about the influx of the deadly drug fentanyl.
“Last year in the Commonwealth we lost almost 2,400 people to fatal overdoses and some 90% of those had some connection with fentanyl. When I was a state rep, I actually worked with Rep. Tim Whelen, a Republican from down on the Cape, a retired state trooper, and we put tougher penalties in place for fentanyl,” he explained.
He said it’s important to draw the distinction between a person who is in the grips of substance abuse addiction and needs help and the person on the street who is trafficking in drugs, especially fentanyl, and should face consequences.
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