The state of Oregon effectively legalized drugs in 2020 when it passed Measure 110. The aftermath has left Oregon in a state of chaos ever since with 956 fatal overdoses in 2022. Today, one-dollar fentanyl pills are fueling the crisis, with the most visible failures seen in the state’s largest city.
Homelessness has exploded in Portland, with open-air drug use as common as the tents, trash, drug paraphernalia, and human waste that line once thriving city streets. Instead of seeking treatment, as Measure 110 promised, drug addicts seek clean needles, fentanyl pipes, and Naloxone.
Finally, nearly four years after Measure 110 was passed, city, county, and state Democrat leaders are talking about the crisis, plotting to tackle it with urgency to prevent more loss of life. They have boldly declared a “fentanyl emergency,” ordering various agencies to partner in programs that push addicts into treatment while cracking down on drug sales.
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Unfortunately, the plan is a fool’s errand that is many years too late. Their 90-day emergency plan will hardly make a dent in the crisis, if it does anything at all. That’s what you can expect from the ideologues who helped create this mess, to begin with.
According to the governor’s office, the emergency plan centers around convincing fentanyl addicts in downtown Portland to work with first responders, such as social workers. Those staffers are meant to connect addicts with the resources they need: drug treatment, medical assistance, educational resources, and food stamps.
But this “new” declaration is not much different from 2022’s 90-day “reset,” which established the Street Services Coordination Center to connect homeless addicts with resources. That, too, failed. Data between April 2022 and the last week of January 2024 showed the city staff were not reaching many homeless each week, with only about a third agreeing to shelter for at least one night.
Give lawbreaking addicts a choice. They either go to treatment or go to jail. The prospect of coming down from a high in jail is enough to scare any addict.
In other words, the emergency plan is more of what they’re already doing across multiple agencies within the city, county, and state. The efforts don’t even come with new funding and, remarkably, there are no established benchmarks for success. Program coordinators said they would establish those benchmarks after they started their efforts.
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The county and state still refuse to abandon its “harm reduction” approach. Proponents say it mitigates the effects of illicit substance abuse so that there’s enough time to convince the addict to seek treatment. But the strategy does little more than hand out drug paraphernalia, enabling the user.
The Oregon Health Authority encourages addicts to use in groups so if someone has an overdose, a friend might quickly intervene. They are told to pace themselves when consuming fentanyl, “start low and go slow, checking the strength and the effects of the substance.”
As I write in my new book “What’s Killing America: Inside the Radical Left’s Tragic Destruction of Our Cities,” unless you abandon strategies that keep people hooked on drugs, you’ll never see real results. It’s why harm reduction is such an abject failure, leading to more addiction, not less.
As I share in my book, municipalities that offer a carrot-and-stick approach see results. While expensive and time-consuming, it works.
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Give lawbreaking addicts a choice. They either go to treatment or go to jail. The prospect of coming down from a high in jail is enough to scare any addict. And while they won’t see much more than 24 hours behind bars, if that, it’s important to hound addicts until they give in and accept treatment constantly. For this to work, the state must fund considerably more treatment centers or beds. They can save a lot of money if they stop buying so many needles, pipes, and fentanyl test strips.
The emergency plan’s unveiling didn’t go over well with some Multnomah County Commissioners. They questioned why the focus is on downtown when the whole county is in crisis, wondered if the county would suddenly take the crisis seriously after dragging its feet while people died, and speculated this is just about checking boxes.
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“This resolution, I’m sorry, it is pathetic,” Commissioner Sharon Meieran said. “It is a contrivance and feeble attempt to govern by press release. It will solve nothing and it will do nothing but allow the chair to check a box saying she’s declared a state of emergency in Multnomah County for all the people who called for it after volunteering on the Central City Task Force. It demonstrates the depth of the county’s seeming allergic reaction to accountability or measurable results.”
Meieran attempted to amend the emergency plan to track overdoses and commit to reducing fentanyl overdoses and use by 25% and creating 500 additional recovery housing beds and 250 residential treatment beds. The amendment failed.
Given they’re not doing anything differently, it’s easy to explain why Democrats are reticent to create measurable goals: they won’t achieve any.
The state’s insistence on sticking to a failed script of harm reduction and emergency declarations, devoid of real change or accountability, not only undermines the fight against addiction but also signals a profound failure of leadership. It’s one that continues to cost lives and erode the fabric of its cities, like Portland, which will ultimately need to replace the slogan, “Keep Portland Weird” with “Keep Portland Drugged Out.”
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