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Portland Declares 90-Day Emergency to Combat Fentanyl Use

Portland takes action against increasing fentanyl use with a 90-day state of emergency and addresses the growing drug crisis in the city.

Governor Tina Kotek takes the stand and announces 90-day state of emergency. Credit: CBS/Adam Yamaguchi and Kerry Breen

Officials in Portland have recently declared a 90-day state of emergency in an attempt to combat rising fentanyl use, which is a highly potent synthetic painkiller.

Fentanyl, known to be 50 times more powerful than heroin, has become a significant contributor to the surge in drug-related deaths across the United States, posing a grave public health concern.

While there have been claims attributing the increase in deaths to the recent move to decriminalize most drugs, Portland city and state officials have said that the unregulated use of fentanyl is the root cause of the “economic and reputational harm” currently facing the city.

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

A fentanyl medical bottle pictured with pills.
Credit: Shutterstock/Sonis Photography

Portland has been grappling with drug-related issues in recent years. The number of overdose deaths involving fentanyl in Multnomah County, where Portland is located, increased by 533% between 2018 and 2022.

Even more alarming are numbers that show the likelihood of homeless individuals dying from a drug overdose, which are 37 times higher than that of the general population, and these patterns are progressively worsening with each passing year.

Call to Action

Following these findings, Kotek announced a “tri-government” action plan involving the state, county, and city. The plan includes the establishment of a temporary command center, an advertising campaign for drug prevention and treatment, increased outreach and resources for addicts, and a police crackdown on open drug dealing.

This police crackdown will involve law enforcement agencies working in close collaboration to target drug dealers and disrupt their operations, aiming to reduce the availability of fentanyl in the community.

While Portland’s decision to decriminalize most drug use through Measure 110 in 2020 remains in effect, the severity of the fentanyl issue has sparked discussions about re-criminalizing public drug use as a means of combating its devastating consequences.

Tina Kotek, the first openly lesbian Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, waves during an appearance at an Equality California awards event.
Credit: Shutterstock/Chris Allan

However, some addiction-treatment groups express concerns that re-criminalization may inadvertently lead to increased overdose rates, as individuals might resort to using fentanyl in more concealed and unsafe settings.

The 90-day state of emergency and subsequent action plan underscore the gravity of the situation and the community’s commitment to finding comprehensive solutions that prioritize both harm reduction and public health.

Kotek is hopeful that through collaborative efforts, targeted interventions, and a balanced approach, Portland will be able to confront the fentanyl crisis and protect the well-being of its residents.

Written By

First-year English student and aspiring writer at University College London.

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