According to a local report, the Multnomah County Health Department will be distributing the drug paraphernalia along with glass pipes for smoking meth and crack as well. Along with those, "snorting kits" will also be made available.
The Oregon Legislature passed a bill that decriminalizes the distribution of drug paraphernalia if the materials are for harm reduction purposes.
It has not been signed into law by the governor of Oregon yet, however, residents of Portland have reportedly become frustrated about the situation with regards to drug use. Many reports have shown an increase in fentanyl overdoses as well as a growing number of residents wanting to bring back criminal penalties for the open use of drugs.
Spokesman Sarah Dean, of Multnomah County, confirmed with Willamette Week that the policy to distribute the "smoking supplies" is new. Dean said that the rise of fentanyl being smoked instead of injected has decreased the demand for "harm reduction" services related to overdoses.
Dean said handing users smoking supplies discourages them from injecting the drug, which is also a vector for disease. She stated, "Several decades of research have also shown that providing supplies for safer drug use does not increase illegal drug use."
The amount of fentanyl in the county, according to Dean herself, has risen substantially. A policy that was going to criminalize and limit the use of fentanyl itself was dropped after being introduced by Mayor Ted Wheeler of Portland just recently.
Wheeler's office released a statement on the approach of the Multnomah County Health Department, saying, "I adamantly oppose distributing paraphernalia to encourage using a drug that is the leading cause of death for Americans under 50 and responsible for 190 fatal overdoses a day in the U.S."
“This misguided approach also results in greater risk to public safety for those who simply want to enjoy our city without walking through a cloud of toxic smoke," Wheeler added.
Wheeler believes putting up "sobering facilities" would be a better approach than distributing materials that are "enabling [the] deadly epidemic" of fentanyl overdose.
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