City officials in the Democratic-run Utopia that is Portland, Oregon, have declared a state of emergency for the downtown area in a desperate bid to address the ongoing fentanyl crisis.
“Our country and our state have never seen a drug this deadly and addictive, and all are grappling with how to respond,” Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek said in a statement.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that is between 50 and 100 times more potent than morphine, and is a main driver of the United States’ ongoing opioid epidemic.
According to the Oregon Health Authority, the state experienced more opioid overdose visits to emergency departments and urgent care centers last year compared to previous years, while the Portland Police Department’s Bureau of Narcotics and Organized Crime Unit saw a 75% increase in notifications of overdose deaths in 2023 over a year prior.
As a reminder, Oregon became the first state in the country to decriminalize the possession of all drugs, including heroin and cocaine, in 2020.
City officials are organizing an approach utilizing emergency response procedures, including designating an incident commander. The responders will review the results in 3 months.
Mike Myers, the director of Portland’s Community Safety Division, will head the city’s command team. Nathan Reynolds, deputy policy chief at the state’s Office of Resilience and Emergency Management, will be the state’s incident commander.
The effort also extends the Portland Police Bureau’s partnership with Oregon State Police to jointly patrol downtown streets for fentanyl sales. It additionally kicks off information campaigns centered on drug use prevention and recovery programs across the region. The county will expand outreach and training on how to administer Narcan, an overdose-reversal drug.
The program doesn’t establish any goals to measure success. Kotek said the next 90 days will provide a road map for the next steps.
…Opioid deaths in Oregon more than tripled from 280, before the de-criminalization of drugs was voted in, to 955 in 2022.
Oregon passed the first-in-the-nation law that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of heroin, cocaine, and other illicit drugs in favor of an emphasis on addiction treatment, with 58% of the vote in 2020. Now, state legislators are rethinking the 2020 decriminalization law…due to the unintended consequences they are now experiencing.
Democratic lawmakers in Oregon on Tuesday unveiled a sweeping new bill that would undo a key part of the state’s first-in-the-nation drug decriminalization law, a recognition that public opinion has soured on the measure amid rampant public drug use during the fentanyl crisis.
The bill would recriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs as a low-level misdemeanor, enabling police to confiscate them and crack down on their use on sidewalks and in parks, its authors said. It also aims to make it easier to prosecute dealers, to access addiction treatment medication, and to obtain and keep housing without facing discrimination for using that medication.
“It’s the compromise path, but also the best policy that we can come up with to make sure that we are continuing to keep communities safe and save lives,” state Sen. Kate Lieber, a Portland Democrat, told The Associated Press.
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