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Belleville declares state of emergency following multiple drug overdoses; strain on emergency services

UPDATE FEB. 9: Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Doug Ford have pledged they will support Belleville.

Trudeau spoke with Mayor Neil Ellis Friday and Ford noted MPP Todd Smith was “on the ground” discussing the issue.

Provincial Minister of Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo is expected to visit the city next week.

FEB. 8: Following 17 drug overdoes from a suspected tainted drug supply in Belleville over 24 hours (14 in a two hour time-frame Tuesday), the city’s mayor  declared a state of emergency.

Mayor Neil Ellis, on behalf of Belleville City Council, stated Thursday morning the state of emergency is related to the growing addiction, mental health and homelessness crisis and resulting impact on emergency services. He is calling on senior level governments for support.

He also hopes neighbouring communities will seek support from the upper governments.

Tri-emergency services in Belleville, with assistance from Prince Edward County, Quinte West and Madoc called to help respond to multiple perceived, and actual, overdoses and multiple patients at one time.

On Tuesday, Feb 6, the largest number was nine overdoses at one time, during one call for service downtown Belleville. No deaths were reported but overdoses were also reported in nearby Quinte West, Deseronto and Tyendinaga.

Belleville Police sent out an alert late Tuesday advising people to avoid unnecessary travel to the downtown core to help ensure emergency services could get to the people in need of care.

“The past two days have exemplified just how critical the addiction, mental health and homelessness crisis has become in our community,” said Ellis. “We, as a city, know that we are at the point where doing our best doesn’t cut it anymore.

In November 2023, paramedics responded to 90 opioid related calls due to a tainted supply that was related to the death of one person.

“Our emergency services, health care system and municipal resources are being stretched to the very limits and we are close to a breaking point. We need serious action and support from senior level government to deal with this crisis and until we begin to see meaningful discussions on how to address the matter, I fear nothing will change. That is why we are calling on the province and federal government for support. I urge our local municipal partners facing the same issues to do the same.”

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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