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‘A new era in substance use:’ Deschutes County officials see troubling surge: four fatal fentanyl overdoses in six days

(Update: adding comments from Deschutes County Health Services, addiction treatment centers)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The entire state of Oregon has seen a significant increase in overdose deaths in the last year, many related to fentanyl, and Central Oregon sadly is no exception.

"Deschutes County is faring better than many parts of the state, but we are still also seeing an uptick.” county Health Services Director Janice Garceau said Thursday.

Ana Woodburn, the county's harm reduction overdose prevention and response coordinator, told NewsChannel 21, "According to our epidemiologist, Mathew Christiansen, Deschutes County has an average of 2.5 overdose fatalities per month.:

Deschutes County Health Services advised last Friday of a troubling recent increase in overdose fatalities -- four in six days.

"January of 2023 showed four overdose fatalities for the entire month, and although current overdose fatality cases are preliminary, pending toxicology, having four suspected overdoses within such a short time frame is evidence of an increase from the norm," Woodburn added. 

Addiction treatment centers like BestCare say they are seeing more patients than usual.

"It's a never-ending flow. There's unfortunately just a lot of business, a lot of work right now." said Emily Harvey, medical director of BestCare.

"Please be aware of the signs of overdose," health officials said in Friday's alert, which continues in full below.

For information about opioids, fentanyl, and response, visit

Recognizing and responding to an overdose can save a life. Here are some signs and symptoms of an overdose to look for:

  • Small, constricted “pinpoint pupils”
  • Falling asleep or losing consciousness
  • Slow, weak, or no breathing
  • Choking or gurgling sounds
  • Limp body
  • Cold and/or clammy skin
  • Discolored skin, especially in lips and nails

Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse an overdose from opioids —including heroin, fentanyl, and prescription opioid medications — when given in time.

Naloxone is easy to use and small to carry. There are two forms of Naloxone that anyone can use without medical training or authorization: prefilled nasal spray and injectable.

If you need Naloxone, please visit participating pharmacies or your local syringe exchange program

Health officials say you can't hurt a person using the medication.

"So if you're concerned, act go ahead and use Narcan" said Garceau. "If the person wasn't in fact an overdose, you've done no harm. You should, of course, call 911. But it is the safest thing."

The Deschutes County Harm Reduction Program recommends the following steps and strategies for community members: 

  1.  Assume any substance purchased on the street may contain unknown substances.
  2. Make sure everyone in the area can access Naloxone (aka Narcan) and knows how to administer it.
  3. Naloxone is safe. Even if naloxone is given to someone who is not experiencing an overdose, it will not harm them.

Get Support: If you or someone you care about is struggling with drug or alcohol use, here are some resources that can help:

  • Drug and Alcohol Helpline: (800) 923-4357) or Text: ‘Recovery Now’ to 839863. Help line for individuals and family members seeking crisis intervention, treatment referral, and chemical-dependency information.
  • Crisis Services: Contact the crisis line by dialing 988 or (541) 322-7500 x9 or call (800) 875-7364 (toll free) or
  • Stabilization Center at 63311 NE Jamison Street Bend, OR 97703 which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Youth Crisis line: (877) 968-8491 Text: ‘teen2teen’ to 839863.  A teen-to-teen crisis and helpline for youth and teens. Teens available to help daily from 4 -10 p.m. (off-hour calls are answered by the crisis line)
  • Mental Health Care Services: (541) 322-7500 to schedule an initial appointment with the Access Team to access counseling, substance use treatment, peer support services, and more.

"I think there will be continued and increased collaboration and communication about this as we start" Harvey said. "I think people are really starting to realize that this isn't this is a new era in substance use. Unfortunately, we're all learning as we go."

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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Jillian Fortner

Jillian Fortner is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jillian here.


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