Oregon law protects those who witness overdoses

Medford, Ore.- Jackson County says they’ve seen a drastic increase in opioid deaths. So far ten people have died of opioid overdoses in the last two months.

“To put that in perspective we had four such deaths in 2016, six deaths in 2017 and we had 10 in an eight week period this year,” Dr. Jim Shames, Jackson County health officer said.

The alarming number has agencies in the area worried it could be the beginning of a new trend.

“The concern is that it could represent a significant shift in the potency in the heroin in the community. It could indicate that we could have fentanyl in a significant amount in our drug supply,” said Dr. Shames.

While experts have yet to receive the toxicology reports, they believe drug dealers may be selling heroin laced with fentanyl.

“This could be 100 to 1,000 times more potent than heroin so tiny amounts of fentayl can be prove to be dangerous and fatal,” said Dr. Shames.

Which is why law enforcement agencies are hoping the Oregon Good Samaritan overdose law will make people feel safer about calling 911.

“So if you are at a known drug house but you witness someone going into a medical crisis, overdose or whatever and you call then there is an immunity for you calling medical services and police to the scene,” Jackson County Sheriff Nate Sickler said. “You won’t in turn be charged with a crime or arrested if you call in and say ‘Hey look, I think someone is overdosing.’”

Sickler says the key thing to remember is how crucial time is. The faster the response, the more likely someone’s life will be saved.

“Waiting any time to clean up a scene or to not get medical help or police there with naloxone could mean the difference of that person surviving the incident,” said Sickler.

Law enforcement agencies say they have not had an overdose death since April 21. They think a bad batch of heroin may have possibly made its way into the valley.

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