PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — People are dying every other day from an opioid overdose. It’s a crisis many states are overwhelmed by — and leaders in the Portland metro are trying to do something about it.

The Tri-County Summit on Opioids and Addiction on Friday was a first for leaders in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties. The counties are working together to tackle the crisis head on.

Brian Martinek sees and understands the opioid epidemic on a personal and professional level. The former chief of police in Vancouver and assistant police chief in Portland lost his son to an accidental overdose.

“I’m the father of a broken heart of a son who died from opioid addiction,” Martinek said.

He said he’s tired of seeing addicts villainized.

“Nobody chooses to get messed up on drugs, nobody chooses to have their life end with the use of drugs, to be treated as an addict the way we do as a society,” Martinek said.

Martinek’s son died at the age of 24. He was a football player for Portland State and had 3 operations in 3 years.

“It’s the old story of the pain prescription. And frankly in colleges and schools, pain pills were part of the party scene and that contributed to it, and he was born to an addictive gene,” Martinek said.

The area’s most powerful decision makers met for Friday’s unprecedented summit to figure out what needs to be done to solve the opioid epidemic.

CEO of Lines for Life Dwight Holton said, “It’s time to do something about it.”

Leaders hope Friday’s meeting will lead to change.

“We’re all in this together as a community, it’s certainly not a public safety issue we’re going to be able to solve by ourselves,” Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill said.

Multiple ideas emerged from Friday’s summit including:

  1. Expanding medically-assisted treatment in jails
  2. Creating an addiction resource connection center
  3. Connecting first responder connections with treatment providers
  4. Expanding the law enforcement assisted diversion program

Facts about opioid use and deaths in Portland metro

  • More than 180 opioid deaths in 2017 (tri-county, medical examiner); highest since 2012

  • Most fentanyl deaths ever (at least 47 in 2017, up from 15 in 2016)

  • More than 1,000 emergency department/urgent care visits for overdose

  • More than 4,500 people seen at detox centers

  • More than 5 million clean syringes exchanged in 2017 to prevent the spread of HIV, Hepatitis B and C

  • More than 4,500 people trained to use nalxone since 2013; more than 2,900 rescues reported. (Outside of and in Multnomah County)

  • More than 120,000 separate individuals get an opioid prescription each quarter (3 months) across the three counties

  • A typical dose of heroin costs about $10, fentanyl $4