ANDOVER — Youth Services Executive Director Bill Fahey thought it was a sure thing.
He made a request in his budget earlier this year for a $60,000 social worker so his department could respond to what has become a public health emergency here and across the state — addiction to heroin and other opiates.
Last year, there were at least two deaths of young Andover residents attributed to heroin overdoses. There were many more close calls.
On Monday night, when the Board of Selectmen approved the $160 million town budget, the position had been dropped.
“This was a proactive solution that would help the community,” Fahey said. “I made a request, based on what we’ve been seeing all over the Merrimack Valley, not just in Andover. It was a support position — a youth services worker who would develop proactive programming for young people with a variety of problems. I thought I had support from Selectmen and the Finance Committee.”
While Selectmen appear to have supported the idea — at least in principle — the proposal didn’t appear to have the support of either the Finance Committee or Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski.
On Monday night, the Selectmen approved Stapczynski’s budget for Youth Services, but did so grudgingly.
“The most important position we can vote on tonight is getting someone with training in substance abuse,” said Selectman Dan Kowalski. “Fahey put it forward. The town manager cut it out. It’s a policy decision. Do you want to have an individual there who is going to help the community?”
Instead, Selectmen voted to support a new clerk in the police department and a new worker in elderly services. They approved a temporary position in the Municipal Services department for an electrician, and gave the go-ahead for a new IT worker.
While those positions were saved, despite the budget-cutting mood of town leaders, a social worker to help young addicts was not.