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Oregon Declares Emergency In Wake Of Portland Fentanyl Crisis

Multnomah County, the city of Portland and the state of Oregon are embarking on a 90-day experiment to address downtown Portland’s fentanyl crisis. Tuesday, the three governments jointly declared a fentanyl emergency, directing their agencies to work alongside each other on programs that connect people addicted to the synthetic opioid with treatment programs and to crack down on drug sales, OPB reports. “Our country and our state have never seen a drug this deadly addictive, and all are grappling with how to respond,” Gov. Tina Kotek said in a statement. “We are all in this together.” The declaration is one of several recommendations that came out of Kotek’s Central City Task Force, a group that met for four months last year to focus on ways to rejuvenate downtown Portland. The 90-day emergency focuses solely on Portland’s “central city." But, at a Tuesday press conference, Kotek said that this response isn’t just about Portland. “The emergency response in Portland will benefit the entire region, state and tribal lands because we know that a large share of fentanyl in Oregon is trafficked through our major city,” she said.

The declaration comes years after fentanyl rooted itself in the region, spurring deaths, addiction and violent crime. According to Multnomah County, the number of overdose fatalities involving fentanyl increased 533% between 2018 and 2022 in the county. The region has also experienced a serious shortage of substance use treatment providers and recovery centers — despite the 2020 passage of a ballot measure meant to fund new drug treatment programs across Oregon. Measure 110 also decriminalized small amounts of illicit drugs, an aspect that state lawmakers are aiming to renegotiate in this year’s legislative session, which begins next week. The emergency plan establishes a “command center” in a city building, where staff from the three governments will work. The idea is that people addicted to fentanyl who interact with first responders in Portland’s central city will be triaged by this new command center. Staff can connect that person with a range of resources — anything from a bed in a drug treatment center to a meeting with a behavioral health clinician to assistance signing up for food stamps. The emergency declaration doesn’t come with new funding to operate the center. The governments are expected to rearrange current budgets and staff to coordinate their multijurisdictional response.


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