Mar 1, 2024 - News

Fentanyl emergency shuts two Portland bottle drops

A panel of nine people including law enforcement officers sit at a table behind media microphones

Members of the task force on Portland's fentanyl emergency address the media. Photo: Joseph Gallivan/Axios

Portland officials announced 30-day suspensions of bottle drops at locations where there has been "acute fentanyl activity," starting March 2.

Why it matters: Bottle drops enable anyone to claim 10-cent deposits on bottles and cans, but they've become a magnet for the fentanyl trade and users in the city's downtown, officials say.

Driving the news: Law enforcement and county health officials gave an update on the city's 90-day fentanyl emergency, saying police are chasing drug users from one "hotspot" to another in downtown Portland.

State of play: The latest hotspot is the Safeway and Plaid Pantry around SW Jefferson Street and 10th and 11th avenues, which is the site of the two bottle drops, according to Mike Myers, director of the city's Community Safety Division.

By the numbers: Myers said the Portland Fire and Rescue's overdose response team has saved dozens of people from deaths over the past month and distributed at least 1,400 Narcan kits.

  • Additionally, 18 people were placed in a temporary alternative shelter site and are now ready to be moved into permanent housing.
  • Seven drug dealers were arrested, Myers said.

What they're saying: "We've had more luck getting people into services by targeting specific spots, and building relationships with individuals," said police Sgt. Jerry Cioeta.

The big picture: Jennifer Vines, the former health officer who oversaw Multnomah Country's COVID-19 response, said treatment and housing must go hand in hand, and praised the county's new youth drug prevention campaign.

  • "We need to keep people from using this drug," Vines said.

What we're watching: To tackle the hotspots, Myers said one tactic is to "saturate the area with outreach workers," who then help get people into drug treatment or a temporary shelter site and, hopefully, into housing.

  • "This pathway is being built," he said.
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