Hamilton explores declaring state of emergency over opioid overdoses and deaths

HAMILTON — The City of Hamilton is exploring whether to declare a state of emergency over its opioid crisis, with the municipality’s top doctor sayingsuch a step could help it respond to a worsening problem.

A motion was introduced and carried unanimously on Jan. 12 to have the city's top doctor determine the threshold of opioid-related deaths and overdoses that would warrant such a declaration.

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton's chief medical officer of health, says declaring a state of emergency is typically for acute problems such as a large fire or accident, so the municipality is looking at what sort of action and funding the move would allow.

Coun. Alex Wilson says opioid-related overdoses and deaths are rising in Hamilton and it's an issue affecting every community in the city, though disproportionately those who are homeless.

Hamilton paramedics responded to 814 incidents related to suspected opioid overdoses in 2022, according to city data, compared to 430 such incidents in 2017.

Opioid deaths have increased in Ontario by more than 100 per cent since 2017 and took a marked jump when the pandemic hit in March 2020.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2023.

The Canadian Press