With nearly 400 drug overdoses in the city this year, the Burlington City Council has declared the drug crisis their top public health and safety concern.
On Tuesday, the council approved a resolution that includes several initiatives to ensure the crisis remains on their radar, including a rule that it appear on the council’s agenda every week.
The council also discussed hiring more first responders and community partners to increase their presence on the front lines.
Police and other first responders have answered calls for 386 overdoses so far this year, according to city officials, who are calling on Gov. Phil Scott and lawmakers to visit the city and see the effects of the crisis themselves.
“I believe this resolution will be the single most important one we pass all year,” said Council President Karen Paul (D-Ward 6). “If public behavior like we are seeing is allowed to continue, it will become the norm, and that is unacceptable. We can’t make our community safe by simply arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating those who are suffering.”
Hand-in-hand with the drug crisis, according to city officials, is Burlington’s homelessness problem. The city has seen a 175 percent increase in people living on the street or in shelters over the past year.
On Tuesday, the council announced the opening of a winter-warming shelter at the VFW on South Winooski Avenue.