Task force reports increase in local drug overdoses
The Central Oregon Overdose Crisis Response Task Force (OCRTF), a regional initiative between Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties, has identified an increase in overdoses.
Since Sept. 15, 2021, there have been approximately 15 confirmed and unconfirmed non-fatal overdoses in the Central Oregon region, with one confirmed death. Overdoses have involved heroin, methamphetamines, counterfeit pills, 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.
In response, Central Oregon health departments are coordinating with first responders and community partners to monitor and prevent additional overdoses and updating websites, social media and other communications to increase awareness.
Health leaders recommend community partners immediately share harm reduction messaging with their clients. For example, they could say, "We have heard about a possible increase in overdoses. When using, please go slow and make sure you are around others. If you have access to Narcan, make sure everyone knows where it is and how to use it."
In addition, they could ask clients if they have any information regarding an increase in overdoses and what might be causing it.
They stress that community partners should not add information to community messages that is not confirmed by County Health Officials. They urge them to be careful to not give information that can give people who use drugs (both licit and illicit) a false sense of security, increasing risk of morbidity and mortality.
The Central Oregon Public Health Overdose Team 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 such as heroin and/or methamphetamine, should take steps to reduce the risk of an overdose.
These 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, as it is highly likely there is fentanyl in most drugs purchased on the street or over the internet.
They further urge people not to use alone. If people do plan use alone, they are urged to call 800-484-3731 or visit NeverUseAlone.com. They will be asked for their first name, location and the number they are calling from. An operator will stay on the line with the person while they use. If they stop responding after using, the operator will notify emergency services of an "unresponsive person" at their location.
Users are also urged to carry naloxone, also known as the nasal spray Narcan, the only medication that can reverse an opioid overdose. People can obtain free naloxone from most pharmacies throughout Central Oregon without a prescription.
In addition, the Central Oregon Public Health Overdose Team recommends carrying fentanyl test strips to test all newly purchased substances before first use. Free test strips are provided locally at Jefferson County Public Health Department, 541-475-4456.
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