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HomeGeneralOregon Declares 90-Day Emergency in Downtown Portland to Fight Fentanyl Crisis

Oregon Declares 90-Day Emergency in Downtown Portland to Fight Fentanyl Crisis

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Source: @USBPChief/X

Oregon leaders have collaborated to declare a 90-day state of emergency in downtown Portland, focusing efforts and resources on addressing the city’s deadly fentanyl crisis.

Governor Tina Kotek, Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler individually issued emergency declarations to tackle the public health and public safety crisis in Portland’s Central City. 

The declarations were prompted by concerns about overdoses, fatalities, and heightened fear associated with fentanyl use, as outlined in a press release.

“In our country and our state, we have never seen a drug this deadly and addictive, and all are grappling with how to respond,” remarked Governor Kotek in the release.

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In 2020, Oregon voters approved Measure 110, which decriminalized specific uses of hard drugs, including fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid. The measure has faced criticism as opioid overdose deaths continued to rise. Opioid overdose deaths in the state surged from 280 in 2019 to 956 in 2022, according to Oregon’s state data.

A US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released last spring revealed that nearly 70,000 people in the US died from drug overdoses involving fentanyl in 2021, marking a roughly four-fold increase over five years.

Fentanyl is notably more likely to be implicated in fatal overdoses compared to other common drugs, as highlighted by the CDC. Experts emphasize that reversing the trends in overdose deaths hinges on achieving broader access to and utilization of treatments for opioid use disorder.

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The emergency declarations were proposed by a Portland Central City Task Force last year.

In the release, Governor Kotek, a Democrat, emphasized, “We are all in this together. The next 90 days will yield unprecedented collaboration and focused resources targeting fentanyl and provide a roadmap for the next steps.”

The emergency order empowers the city, state, and county to allocate resources for the response and establish a command center in the central city.

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The initiative will incorporate two public health campaigns and heightened outreach efforts to encourage individuals to access treatment, recovery, and housing services. Additionally, the release mentioned ongoing collaborations between the Portland Police Bureau and Oregon State Police to hold individuals selling the drug accountable.

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The command center will be responsible for sharing and reporting data on the impacts of fentanyl in downtown, utilizing this information to address “acute needs and gaps in service,” as stated in the release.

“We are acting with shared leadership to take urgent action today to respond to the very human toll fentanyl takes in our community, including overdoses, fatalities, and day-to-day suffering, and the fear so many families are experiencing as a result,” noted Pederson in the release.

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