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Bellingham taking emergency steps amid downtown fentanyl crisis

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(The Center Square) – Bellingham Mayor Kim Lund has signed an executive order to take immediate action to address a worsening fentanyl crisis in the city.

The executive order prioritizes the safety and well-being of downtown Bellingham due to the number of drug related emergency responses that have occurred in the area in the first two months of the year.

According to the city, Bellingham Fire and Emergency Medical Services have responded to 104 overdose related incidents in January alone. That puts the city on track to exceed 1,200 overdose responses this year.

Out of the 104 emergency responses, 30 occurred in the downtown area.

For context, Bellingham recorded 898 overdose-related incidents in 2023, a 67% increase from 537 in 2022.

“I was hearing qualitative reports from our first responders that the impacts from fentanyl in our downtown seemed to be getting worse,” Lund said in a Tuesday news release. “This quantitative look substantiated our collective experiences, and we knew we had to take urgent action.”

The executive order establishes a greater police presence in the downtown area, increases the frequency of litter control and sanitation services in the area, and expands the Bellingham Fire Department’s Community Paramedic Program to provide immediate responses to overdoses in the downtown area.

Other notable actions in Lund’s executive order include increasing public education about the fentanyl crisis, and pursuing county, state and federal financial resources.

Lund said the executive order focuses on the downtown core because that is the area that defines a city.

“Many people are working very hard to support and improve Bellingham’s downtown and there are a lot of good and exciting things happening that we are eager to build upon with this Executive Order,” Lund said. “We don’t want the fentanyl crisis and its effects to define our downtown and our wonderful community.”

According to data from What-Comm 911 dispatch center, out of 788 countywide calls placed to 911 for suspected overdoses, 581 (74%) were within Bellingham’s city limits.

The Whatcom County Council is considering a request for the declaration of a countywide state of emergency.