Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek (D) declared a 90-day state of emergency Tuesday in response to a “public health and public safety crisis” driven by fentanyl in Portland, the state’s largest city.
The emergency declaration was joined by two concurrent emergency declarations from Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler.
“Our country and our state have never seen a drug this deadly and addictive, and all are grappling with how to respond,” Gov. Kotek said Tuesday.
“The Chair, the Mayor and I recognize the need to act with urgency and unity across our public health and community safety systems to make a dent in this crisis. We are all in this together,” Kotek said. “The next 90 days will yield unprecedented collaboration and focused resources targeting fentanyl and provide a roadmap for next steps.”
The move comes just days in advance of the three-year anniversary of Oregon’s adoption of Measure 110, a first-in-the-nation law decriminalizing the possession of most hard drugs — including fentanyl — in the state in February 2021.
According to state data, unintentional opioid overdose deaths in Oregon increased from 280 in 2019 to 956 in 2022.
The three emergency orders will direct Oregon state, county, and Portland city departments and officials to commit available resources to a combined response to the fentanyl crisis.
The coordinated response is set to include public education campaigns on billboards, digital media, and audio streaming, distribution and training on Narcan to help in reversing overdoses, and deploying additional public health services to attempt to move individuals addicted to fentanyl into substance use treatment programs.
“I am pleased to have Governor Kotek and Chair Vega Pederson join the City of Portland’s ongoing efforts to address the deadly fentanyl crisis impacting our community,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said Tuesday.
“Today, we move forward with urgency to address these challenges together under the authority of emergency declarations,” Wheeler said. “This is exactly the type of coordinated action needed to make a direct impact and a lasting difference.”
The Maine State Legislature is currently considering a bill similar to Oregon’s Measure 110, LD 1975, that would decriminalize the possession of all scheduled drugs in the state.
Like Oregon, Maine has experienced a years-long upward trend in overdose deaths, largely attributed to fentanyl.
The most recent data from the Maine Attorney General’s Office reported a total of 9,135 overdoses in 2023 as of November — 559 of which were fatal.
In her Tuesday written State of State Address, Maine Gov. Janet Mills said that the state is on track to see a more than 16 percent reduction in fatal overdoses for 2023, “the first time in five years we’ve recorded an annual decrease.”
Gov. Mills announced in her address that she plans to use $750,000 in existing state funding to add nine new substance use recovery coaches to a statewide team, and will use $1.25 million in federal funds to increase the distribution of naloxone (equivalent to over-the-counter Narcan).
Additionally, Mills said she plans to dedicate $4 million in her forthcoming supplemental budget proposal to expand Medication Assisted Treatment in the state’s county jails.