Ron Dunn, executive director of the Downtown Mission, said the number of people with mental health issues and drug addictions has become an “epidemic.” He said people talk about the opioid crisis like it’s something new, but it’s been around for a while and it’s getting worse. The mission is often “ground zero” for people who have nowhere left to go for help.

“I think we as a country probably should declare it a national emergency,” Dunn said. “Crystal meth is the drug of choice. For $5 you can be high all day, and if you have no other way to deal with whatever is causing you to be numb all day, then that’s a pretty cheap fix. We need to look at what caused them to get there.”

He said the mental health crisis the region is now experiencing actually started years ago when government institutions were shut down and patients were released into the community without support systems in place.