Mar 28, 2024 - News

Portland's new fentanyl dashboard revealed

Bar chart of drug deaths

A bar chart showing deaths, confirmed and suspected, involving drugs. The Multnomah County Medical Examiner makes it available on the county's new fentanyl emergency dashboard. Graphic: Courtesy of Multnomah County

Multnomah County has unveiled an online dashboard for tracking fentanyl overdoses and other incidents.

Why it matters: City, county and state elected elders declared a 90-day fentanyl emergency in January. So far this year, 172 people are suspected to have died from drug overdoses in Multnomah County.

What they're saying: Emily Mosites, epidemiology manager at the Multnomah County Health Department, said the county needs centralized data to treat fentanyl, just like any health emergency.

  • "The fentanyl crisis is affecting our whole community," said Mosites.

Behind the scenes: The five sources for the dashboard include those who are often first on the scene at medical emergencies, such as Portland Fire & Rescue and American Medical Response, the local ambulance service.

Context: A fentanyl incident logged by responders can be anything from someone passing out in the street to a fatal overdose, depending on the 911 caller's comments.

The big picture: Analysts will use the data in the short term to spot large changes in fatal or nonfatal overdoses, and in the long term to study trends in fentanyl supply and use, county spokesperson Sarah Dean told Axios by email.

  • The data is updated weekly, although Mosites stressed that toxicology reports on overdose deaths can take months to appear.
  • The goal is to share data between agencies and also to make it understandable to the general public.

How it works: The county health department reviews overdose data for unusual activity, after being alerted by police, EMS or harm reduction client reports.

  • If there is a spike in overdoses, additional outreach may be called for including increased naloxone distribution, and more public awareness and law enforcement efforts.
  • "We are often able to activate outreach and naloxone distribution on the ground within a couple hours of a possible incident," Dean told Axios.

Zoom in: So far, a fentanyl emergency task force created in January has targeted drug dealers and closed two bottle deposits at a Safeway and Plaid Pantry downtown. It also has educated people about shelter and treatment options.

  • Mosites pointed out one clear trend: drug incidents peak from May to September.
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