Oregon officials declare state of emergency to address fentanyl crisis in Portland

(OREGON) — Oregon government officials have declared a 90-day state of emergency to address Portland’s growing fentanyl crisis.

Gov. Tina Kotek, Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler each issued an emergency declaration on Tuesday following a recommendation from the Portland Central City Task Force.

Overdose deaths from synthetic opioids, mainly fentanyl, have increased by 533% between 2018 and 2022 in Multnomah County, where Portland is located, according to the county’s health department.

“Our country and our state have never seen a drug this deadly and addictive, and all are grappling with how to respond,” Kotek said in the announcement. “The Chair, the Mayor and I recognize the need to act with urgency and unity across our public health and community safety systems to make a dent in this crisis.”

The state of emergency order allows officials to dedicate resources to responding to the crisis and to establish a command center in Portland, which will offer access to day services and “improve connection to care,” according to the announcement.

The command center will also share and publicly report data on the impact of fentanyl in the city, as well as identify what gaps in service exist, respond to them and allocate resources to do so, the announcement further states.

Additionally, the Multnomah County Health Department will launch education campaigns promoting youth drug prevention, according to the announcement, including how effective recovery is and reducing stigma when it comes to treatment. The department will publicize the messages on platforms including digital media, billboards, and streaming audio.

According to the announcement, there will also be “continued missions between the Portland Police Bureau and Oregon State Police to hold individuals selling the drug accountable.”

“If you or a loved one is struggling with a fentanyl addiction, we hear you, we see you and we are taking this crisis seriously,” Chair Jessica Vega Pederson said in the announcement. “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.”

Fentanyl is up to 50 times stronger than heroin and about 100 times stronger than morphine as a pain reliever, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Even in relatively small doses, fentanyl can be deadly. Because of its potency, it is often added to other drugs and yet is “nearly impossible” to detect without testing those drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The increasing role of fentanyl in overdose deaths is a trend seen nationwide. A CDC report last year showed more than 107,000 people died of drug overdoses from January 2019 to June 2022. Of those, more than two-thirds were linked to synthetic opioids, mainly illicitly manufactured fentanyl.

The CDC says more than 150 people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids, including fentanyl.


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