Overdoses spiking across Central Oregon region
The Central Oregon region is experiencing a recent increase in drug overdoses, prompting action from health departments throughout the area.
According to a recent Crook County Health Department report, the Central Oregon Public Health Overdose Team, a regional initiative between Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties, has seen approximately 20 confirmed and 12 unconfirmed non-fatal overdoses in the Central Oregon region between April 9 and 26. Two of the overdoses were fatal.
Health officials said the overdoses have involved heroin, opioids, methamphetamines and several other substances that have yet to be identified, many of which likely contain fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 100 times more powerful than morphine. The outcome could have been worse, but 18 doses of naloxone were administered to revive and save multiple lives.
In response to the uptick, Central Oregon health departments are coordinating with first responders and community partners to monitor and prevent additional overdoses. In addition, they are updating websites, social media and other communications to increase awareness.
Health officials are urging community partners to immediately share harm reduction messaging with clients. For example, they could mention the increase in overdoses and tell known drug users that when they are using to go slow and make sure they are around others. Also, they encourage people using to make sure they have access to Narcan and make sure everyone knows where it is and how to use it.
In addition, health officials are encouraging community partners to ask clients if they have any information about the increase in overdoses and what might be causing it.
The Central Oregon Public Health Overdose Team is pursuing other prevention efforts. It is issuing a warning to people who use drugs to take additional precautions. People who choose to use pills outside of a care plan developed with a healthcare provider or who use other substances should take steps to reduce the risk of an overdose. Steps include avoiding any pills that are not prescribed by a medical provider and being extremely cautious when using more than one substance at the same time. The team adds that it is highly likely there is fentanyl in most drugs purchased on the street.
While people are encouraged not to use alone, people who do are encouraged to call 800-484-3731 or visit NeverUseAlone.com. Health officials explain that the person will be asked for their first name, location and the number from which they are calling. An operator will stay on the line with the person while they use, and if they stop responding after using, the operator will notify emergency services of an unresponsive person at their location.
In addition, people who are using are encouraged to carry fentanyl test strips and test all newly purchased substances before first use. Free test strips are available at the Crook County Public Health Department.
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