Hamilton calls for collaboration in fight against drug epidemic


Mayor John Hamilton speaks about implementing the recommendations made by the Safety, Civility and Justice Task Force during a press conference at the Monroe County Public Library Thursday. The press conference came after dozens of overdoses in the Bloomington area. Emily Eckelbarger and Emily Eckelbarger Buy Photos

Mayor John Hamilton addressed the rash of overdoses in the Bloomington area and homelessness during a public announcement July 6.

Speaking at the Monroe County Public Library, Hamilton revealed the third phase of recommendations that the 10-member Safety, Civility and Justice Task Force had formed in response to progress and recent challenges in the Bloomington area.

Phase III of the task force’s recommendations will include creating public restroom facilities, expanding the hours of day shelter services, creating a central source of relevant services on the city website, activating city alleys with lighting and programming, increasing programming in downtown city parks and increasing police presence downtown through the Eyes on the Street program and a potential ambassadors program.

As part of the new initiatives, the Shalom Center will now be open on weekends. There will also be a web page for homeless services available on the city website. A Metrics Development Team and a Community Coordination Council were also created, according to a July 27 City of Bloomington press release.

Hamilton was joined on stage by Bloomington Police Department Chief Michael Diekhoff and Beverly Calender-Anderson, the director of the Family Resources Department.

Hamilton called on local leaders to create a working group to coordinate efforts. He also called on state and federal governments to provide 

“Even as our community pulls together to respond to real challenges, there is no doubt that we must have stronger support from our state and national governments. Some of the threatened changes in healthcare, in social service funding, in tax policy, in education support and more, pose dramatic threats to our progress on these issues,” he said.

Hamilton referenced federal cuts for housing and community development, including $80,000 cut locally, and Medicaid cuts for addiction services and mental health 

Hamilton also spoke with Governor Holcomb on July 10 to address the flow of drugs into Bloomington. He also spoke to him about releasing prison inmates being abandoned in 

“Our state government must work with us to give law enforcement the tools needed to stem the flow of a dangerous drug into our community,” he said.

Hamilton also called for community partnerships to address underlying issues. He spoke about the need for treatment centers for addictions, mental health services, more housing, better alternatives to drug use and more jobs.

“The recent most visible signs of challenge are just the most visible tip of the terrible set of challenges that continue to run throughout our community, indeed the country,” he said.

He also touched on the successes that the task force recommendations have brought. A jobs program created by Centerstone and the Bloomington Parks and Recreation department has employed 5 people, some of whom attended the conference, to oversee operations at downtown parks.

Hamilton mentioned the opioid treatment center, announced July 5, that will be coming to Monroe County. He also announced that there will be a critical summit on September 28 to address the opioid epidemic.

The press conference came after dozens of overdoses and one death in the Bloomington area in the past few weeks.

“Our city of compassion aches to see the human toll of these past few weeks,” Hamilton said.

However, he remained firm in saying that illegal drugs and criminal activity will not be tolerated.

“These behaviors have no place in our community,” he said.

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