Emergency personnel in a small Oregon city had to respond to four separate fentanyl overdoses in a span of just six hours on Tuesday. By the next day, the entire county was placed in a state of emergency due to the prominence of the deadly drug.
Officials in Bend — a city of about 100,000 people, more than three hours south of Portland — first responded to a fentanyl overdose around 8:00 a.m. at Second Street and Franklin Avenue, KTVZ reported.
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Just before 1:00 p.m., police found two more people overdosing on fentanyl in the parking lot of a Jimmy John’s sandwich shop.
Only 46 minutes had elapsed by the time police had to again respond to the area of the first overdose to aid someone else also suffering from fentanyl poisoning.
All four individuals survived with the help of Narcan administered by first responders, according to the local news station.
The life-saving overdose reversal drug has been carried by Bend police and numerous other law enforcement agencies around the country due to the uptick in fentanyl usage in recent years. In October 2023, the Biden administration urged schools across the nation to stock up on Narcan.
In a letter from U.S. Secretary of Education Michael Cardona and National Drug Control Policy Director Rahul Gupta to school administrators, it was stated that the number of fatal drug overdoses in 2022 was “unacceptably high” at 107,000.
“In the midst of this fentanyl overdose epidemic, it is important to focus on measures to prevent youth drug use and ensure that every school has naloxone and has prepared its students and faculty to use it,” the officials wrote, using the generic name of the drug.
The four overdoses taking place in such a short period “stretched” Bend Fire & Rescue’s resources to the brink, KTVZ reported, citing EMS Chief Drew Norris.
“For a typical overdose call, they respond with an ambulance and two engines,” Norris said.
Following Bend’s crisis on Tuesday, Deschutes County commissioners voted to enact a 90-day countywide fentanyl state of emergency, closely echoing the one declared in Portland by Gov. Tina Kotek (D-OR) on January 30.
The governor of Oregon has declared a state of emergency in the city of Portland due to the growing fentanyl crisis. The state became the first in the nation to largely decriminalize drug use in 2020. pic.twitter.com/xf9ln34Hfw
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) February 2, 2024
“We have fentanyl everywhere and our young people are dying,” said Patti Adair, Deschutes County Commission Chair. “We need to solve this problem.”
“Now is the time for action. We’re experiencing a crisis and need the community to understand how dangerous this is,” said Deschutes County Commissioner Tony DeBone. “We need the community to come together and look out for one another. This is getting worse every day.”
Commissioner Phil Chang abstained from the vote due to the response strategy not being “fully developed.”
“We are absolutely having a crisis,” Chang said. “However, I am abstaining from today’s vote because I don’t think our next steps have been fully developed. I want to better understand what actions the County is prepared to take.”
While the order doesn’t actually include any official new policies or resources, commissioners DeBone and Adair voted for the declaration due to the increased awareness it will bring to the issue.
Both commissioners have lobbied the state legislature in recent days to make changes to Measure 110, the drug decriminalization act that Oregonians now largely want reversed after seeing dastardly effects in the three years since it passed.