Chair Jessica Vega Pederson asks Board to declare a 90-day fentanyl emergency

January 30, 2024

Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson on Tuesday, Jan. 30 announced she would ask the Board of County Commissioners to declare a 90-Day emergency this week addressing the public health and public safety crisis driven by fentanyl in Portland’s Central City. Chair Vega Pederson also issued an emergency exemption to allow for the rapid procurement goods and services for the effort.

The Chair made the announcement alongside Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who each issued declarations of their own. The tri-government fentanyl emergency declarations follow a recommendation put forward by the Portland Central City Task Force, unveiled at the Oregon Business Leadership Summit late last year. 

(Left to right): Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek, Chair Jessica Vega Pederson, and Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler

"It’s important right now, in this moment, that we act with shared leadership to respond to the very human toll fentanyl is taking on our community, including overdoses, fatalities and day-to-day suffering," Chair Vega Pederson said. "We’re stepping up together to take the urgent, coordinated action needed by declaring a tri-government fentanyl emergency."

All three emergency orders direct the City, State, and County to commit available resources to the unified response. The governments will operate a command center in the central city where state, county and city employees will convene to coordinate strategies and response efforts. Each level of government has identified an incident commander who will be responsible for coordinating resources from the jurisdiction they represent. 

The unified command includes: 

  • Nathan Reynolds, Deputy Chief of Policy and Mission Support at the Office of Resilience and Emergency Management (State)
  • Dr. Jennifer Vines, former Health Officer (County)
  • Mike Myers, Director of the Community Safety Division (City)

The Command Center will consolidate existing resources and publicly report data on the impacts of fentanyl in Portland's Central City. It will also use data to identify and respond to acute needs and gaps in service, identify resources necessary to address gaps, and establish a system to coordinate that can be sustained beyond the 90-day startup period. 

”If you or a loved one is struggling with a fentanyl addiction, we hear you, we see you and we are taking this crisis seriously,” Chair Vega Pederson said. “We are acting with shared leadership to take urgent action today to respond to the very human toll fentanyl takes in our community, including overdoses, fatalities and day-to-day suffering, and the fear so many families are experiencing as a result.”

Multnomah County will marshal and direct resources from the Health Department, County Human Services, Community Justice, County Assets, Joint Office of Homeless Services, and Emergency Management and its network of partners and providers. Through coordinated outreach, the County will work to prevent exposure and use of fentanyl; reduce harm among people using substances; and increase access to outreach, treatment, recovery, and housing services. 

The Health Department will launch two public education campaigns during the 90-day emergency featuring transit, billboards, digital media, streaming audio, and more. These highly-visible messages will promote prevention among youth and the effectiveness of recovery in transforming lives, and reduce stigma for treatment.

The County will also increase the visibility and coordination of County contractors conducting outreach on the streets, distribute and train partners on the use of Narcan and issue reports on overdose data. Targeted outreach will leverage services from the downtown Behavioral Health Resource Center. The center—strategically located in the Central City— will offer immediate access to day services and improve connection to care. 

The Board of County Commissioners is scheduled to take up the resolution declaring an Emergency under Chapter 25 of the County Code during the Thursday, Feb. 1 regular board meeting. 

"I make this declaration with the expectation it will be receiving full support from my colleagues on the Board as I know we have a mutual interest in increased action and urgency in response to this crisis," Chair Vega Pederson said.