Oregon Governor Tina Kotek has announced a 90-day state of emergency in Portland in response to the severe fentanyl crisis gripping the city. She made her announcement flanked by Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.
The decision to call a state of emergency comes as the state faces increasing challenges related to drug overdoses, particularly fentanyl, despite being the first state to decriminalize drug use in 2020 with the passage of Measure 110.
Governor Kotek's emergency declaration outlines a comprehensive plan to address the fentanyl problem, including the establishment of a command center in central Portland.
This center will focus on coordinating strategies and efforts between state, county, and city entities, leveraging and reorienting existing resources towards the crisis. The command center aims to collect and disseminate data on fentanyl's impact, identify service gaps, and ensure sustained coordination beyond the initial 90-day period.
“Development of a system to efficiently track and coordinate existing resources to assist people impacted by fentanyl use should be completed in not more than 90 days,” said Kotek.
The initiative reflects growing concern over the effectiveness of Measure 110, with Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton expressing disappointment over the law's failure to meet voters' expectations. “We’ve had three years of this law that has not delivered on the promise that voters thought they were getting,” he said.
Since the measure's enactment, the state has seen a continuous rise in overdose cases, as reported by CBS News.
Advocates for harm reduction and recovery services have voiced their support for the emergency declaration, seeing it as a critical step towards garnering the necessary attention, care, funding, and coordination to combat the crisis.
Haven Wheelock, from the nonprofit Outside In, and Jesse Cornett, from Oregon Recovers, highlighted the urgent need for immediate solutions, such as establishing a sobering center, to provide relief to individuals in crisis, noting the current lack of adequate facilities for law enforcement to refer those in need, the Daily Wire reported.