Chief of Police Michael T. Callaghan was introduced as the guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Belleville lunch meeting on February 15th by Marg Wagner, former Rotarian and member of the Police Services Board for eight and a half years.  Marg was on the hiring committee to bring Mike Callaghan back to Belleville as Deputy Chief.  (Marg Wagner is pictured here with President of the Rotary Club of Belleville, Peter Malone, Rotarian Nadine Langlois and Chief Callaghan). 
Callaghan made one of his last few speaking engagements on Thursday to the Rotary Club of Belleville at Capers on Front Street in Belleville. It was a packed house of Rotary members and guests who came to hear what Chief Callaghan had to say, before departing for a well-deserved retirement after dedicating 39 years serving and protecting through various Police Services.
“It’s bittersweet that I retire as I truly love the city, I love what we do, and I love my job” was part of his opening comment. He is also looking forward to being able to spend quality time with his loving wife Terry, who has been at his side his entire career despite being a stage four cancer survivor.
The presentation wasn’t so much about his amazing 39 years wearing blue, the dedicated service, and the great stories along the way. Instead, his story focussed on the unfortunate situation in which our city has found itself over the past few years. So, the focus steered toward the question that seems to be on everybody’s mind at the moment - serious opioid and drug overdose problems faced by the city in recent times. He noted “the problem isn’t localized to our community but is being felt across the province and country in police comparators – police services of similar size”.
Belleville Police Chief Mike Callaghan says he is very optimistic that they will be able to make some progress in key areas soon with provincial help. 
His words on the history of past decisions regarding permanent care facilities led the listeners through the social policies and peeling away of true support networks that many addicts or mentally ill individuals need to navigate life. Now on the streets struggling mentally and living with addiction, we see the impact of those decision made starting in 1993. Social policy decisions sound good at the time and can make sense when trying to convince taxpayers that it’s in their best interest to save money through service cuts. We can now see these decisions haven’t saved taxpayers any resources, but have actually cost us more in socio-economic terms.
“Many experts suggest that there are impact factors that are needed in communities struggling to help addicts. We need a detox centre and a RAAM clinic - Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine”. He went on to discuss another policy change that led us to this point based on international observations. Namely the law to decriminalize drugs in Portugal and how that country is revisiting that decision based on their struggles with increased substance abuse and addictions.
Dialogue continued with the little impact that interdictions and enforcement are having due to legal barriers that exist. “While it’s a component to help curb the problem its by no means a solution”. It was noted that the strain on the various services is clear. Fire, ambulance, police, hospital doctors and nurses are pushed to the limits with filling the addiction services role. “It’s obvious and clear that we can’t continue to address addictions through emergency service channels”. He also noted that “the exhaustion is real as is compassion fatigue”. These dedicated front-line service experts lose their passion when helping the same individuals night after night after night. This isn’t the definition of helping the community when the very small number of individuals use the services over and over again.
The call to action is clear – if we as members of the community want change, we will have to have our voices heard by the leaders whom we have elected at every level of government. Rotary Club of Belleville President, Peter Malone, thanked Chief Callaghan for his many years of service and recognized the incredible work of the Belleville Police Service and all first responders during a complex and difficult time in our City. Peter closed with “The Rotary Club of Belleville wishes the Chief and his wife Terry all the best in retirement and thanked him for his leadership role in our community”.  Rotarian Cassandra Bonn presented Chief Callaghan with a certificate of thanks, noting that a donation would be made for the Food for Learning program, providing a student with a hot meal.