Belleville declares state of emergency due to ‘growing addiction, mental health and homelessness crisis’

Hollie Pratt-Campbell/Quinteist

At least 19 overdoses have occurred in Belleville this week, and Mayor Neil Ellis is calling for support from federal and provincial governments in order to address this issue.

Ellis, on behalf of Belleville City Council, declared a state of emergency on Thursday, Feb. 8 in light of the growing addiction, mental health and homelessness crisis and resulting impact on emergency services.

This comes after a spike in overdoses on Tuesday, Feb. 6, which police called “unprecedented,” and led to an advisory for residents to avoid the downtown area. Emergency services responded to a total of 14 overdoses that night.

“During the span of less than an hour, there were more than a dozen drug overdoses that took place in a small geographic area on Bridge Street East, which resulted in a tremendous strain on all emergency services and hospitals in the Belleville and greater area,” Belleville Police Chief Mike Callaghan said on Wednesday.

Again on Feb. 7, emergency services including police, fire and EMS, also responded to five reported overdoses between 10 a.m. and midnight.

“One of the overdoses was in the downtown core, two were near an address on Bridge St East, one was reported near Campbell Street, and the fifth was at an address on George Street,” police said in a media release.

All five people were transported to the hospital by EMS. There were no reported deaths.

Mayor Ellis is now calling on senior level governments for support.

“The past two days have exemplified just how critical the addiction, mental health and homelessness crisis has become in our community,” Ellis stated. “We, as a city, know that we are at the point where doing our best doesn’t cut it anymore. Our emergency services, health care system and municipal resources are being stretched to the very limits and we are close to a breaking point.”

Ellis called for “serious action and support from senior level government to deal with this crisis,” noting that “until we begin to see meaningful discussions on how to address the matter, I fear nothing will change.”

Tri-emergency services in Belleville continue to respond to perceived and actual overdoses and, in many cases, are finding multiple patients at one time, a media release from the city states. On Tuesday afternoon, the largest number was nine overdoses at one time during one call for service.

An Emergency Declaration acts as a request for support from the provincial and federal government, and falls under Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act. The Act defines an emergency as a situation or an impending situation that constitutes a danger of major proportions that could result in serious harm to persons or substantial damage to property and that is caused by the forces of nature, a disease or other health risk, an accident or an act whether intentional or otherwise.

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