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Deschutes County commissioners are still split on impact of declaring 90-day fentanyl emergency

(Update: Adding video, comments from commissioners)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Back in early February, Deschutes County commissioners declared a 90-day state of emergency to bring awareness to the fentanyl crisis locally. Although it didn't provide any extra funding, it was declared by two of three commissioners to bring more awareness to the issue.

Commissioner Patti Adair brought forward the proposed order after Gov. Tina Kotek and Portland-area leaders declared such an emergency a week earlier. Commissioner Tony DeBone voted in favor after the Central Oregon Drug Enforcement Team's Sgt. Kent Vander Kamp painted a frightening picture of the current situation.

Commissioner Phil Chang said Thursday he agreed on the serious crisis that needs more attention and addressing in multiple ways. But he abstained on the order, saying it did not bring any new policies, initiatives or resources to the table.

Adair said, "We had to do something. And I'm really relieved."

But Chang disagreed.

"(It) was an empty declaration that has accomplished nothing besides pointing to a problem that we already knew was there," he said,

Adair maintains it was intended to get legislative attention for Measure 110 reform.

"I felt like by doing that emergency order that helped send a message to the legislators that, 'No, you can't ignore this. This problem needs to be addressed now.' And the good news is they did address it," she said.

House Bill 4002, reforming Measure 110, was signed into law on April 1st, nearly two months after the county declared the fentanyl emergency. 

Chang still believes it was not an appropriate use of a declaration.

"We need to do more than draw attention to a problem. We need to identify what the strategies are to tackle that problem," he said.

The declaration authorizes the county to tap into emergency federal and state resources and receive goods and services, but Chang said, "We didn't do that."

According to Vander Kamp, there were three nearly simultaneous overdose emergencies in Bend the same week of the declaration involving people who took drugs laced with fentanyl.

Adair said, "We were already working on the problem. We didn't stop, but we just put the emphasis where it needed to go."

Multnomah County also declared a fentanyl emergency a week before Deschutes County and did make use of state resources allocated during a declaration, like the Oregon Health Authority. Chang wanted the county to follow suit.

"I would have loved to have seen us express the intention to do an emergency declaration, and then do the work to plan new initiatives and responses to line up resources, to partner with the state, to partner with our cities, and then do an emergency declaration," he said. "But we didn't do any of that."

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County
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Isabella Warren

Isabella Warren is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Isabellahere.


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