Kotek declares fentanyl state of emergency for downtown Portland

Fentanyl bust Deschutes Jefferson July 15, 2022
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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Several elected leaders in Oregon declared a state of emergency on Tuesday for downtown Portland over the public health and public safety crisis fueled by fentanyl.

Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson made the declaration for a 90-day period during which collaboration and response will come from a command center downtown. The three governments are directing their agencies to work with first responders in connecting people addicted to the synthetic opioid with resources including drug treatment programs and to crack down on drug sales.

“Our country and our state have never seen a drug this deadly addictive, and all are grappling with how to respond,” Kotek said in a statement.

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The declaration is a recommendation from a governor-established task force that met for several months last year to determine ways to rejuvenate downtown Portland.

People addicted to fentanyl who interact with first responders in Portland’s downtown in the next 90 days will be triaged by this new command center. Staff can connect people with various resources from a bed in a drug treatment center to meeting with a behavioral health clinician to help with registering for food stamps.

“We cannot underestimate the tremendous value of bringing leaders from different disciplines in a room on a daily basis who all account for a different part of the solution,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said in a statement.

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.

The synthetic opioid addiction and overdose crisis that has gripped the U.S. for over two decades has left governments at the federal, state and local levels scrambling for solutions.

At the state level, Oregon lawmakers have introduced a new bill that would undo a key part of the state’s drug decriminalization law. Public opinion has soured on it as public drug use has become more visible because of growing homelessness.

And President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced last fall that China was telling its chemical companies to restrict shipments to Latin America and elsewhere of the materials used to produce fentanyl, which is largely finished in Mexico and then smuggled into the U.S.

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