BOSTON (CBS) — An area near Mass. Ave. and Melnea Cass Boulevard is referred to as “methadone mile” because it is frequented by people with substance abuse issues.

A number of homeless shelters and the methadone clinics line the streets. Therefore a population of homeless and people in recovery stay nearby, according to WBZ-TV’s Chief Legal Analyst Cheryl Fiandaca.

Police typically respond to violent crimes and overdoses in the area but on Thursday, a Suffolk County House of Corrections Officer said he attacked there while on his way to work.

Fiandaca said police have a tough time handling methadone mile because the situation is complex. “The police do not arrest substance abusers, they don’t arrest people who are using illegal drugs. If they commit other crimes, they will come in and arrest them,” she explained.

According to Boston Crime Incident Reports, there have been 229 medical or drug-related calls in methadone mile area this year. In 2018, there were 185 reports total. In 2016, there were 31.

“If they don’t want help, you can’t force them into it and so it becomes a very difficult situation to kind of manage,” Fiandaca said.

Al Raskin was once a client at the nearby clinics and homeless shelter. Now he serves food at the shelter, and watches as the area gets more crowded.

“Progressively worse,” Raskin said. “Two years ago there were maybe a couple of people, but now every day 24/7 there’s at least 50 people across the street.”

The problem is exacerbated by the 2014 sudden closure of treatment facilities on Boston’s Long Island.

“The whole area is really a failure of the mental health system and the drug rehabilitation system,” said WBZ security analyst Ed Davis.

Patients were transported to the island for treatment but eventually the old bridge was condemned and demolished, cutting off access to the island and forcing hundreds to find help in the city.

Mayor Marty Walsh is taking steps to rebuild that treatment center on Long Island in the hopes it will help curb the local opioid epidemic. He is facing some pushback from the city of Quincy, which provides the only land access to the island.

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