PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Eight people overdosed near the Northwest Portland Park Blocks just after 10 a.m. Monday, sending 4 young people to the hospital.

First responders rushed to the area near NW Park Avenue and West Burnside Street.

Portland Fire & Rescue Lt. Rick Graves said all were in their late teens or early 20s.

“They believed that they were snorting cocaine and it was laced with some opiate,” Graves said. “We can assume it’s fentanyl because of the cost of fentanyl is pretty low.”

Graves said he’s seen an increase in overdose calls throughout the city.

First responders rushed to a NW Portland park after 8 overdosed on fentanyl, October 2, 2023 (KOIN)
First responders rushed to a NW Portland park after 8 overdosed on fentanyl, October 2, 2023 (KOIN)

“It shouldn’t be normal to see people slumped over and not breathing. It shouldn’t be normal to see elderly community members in a fountain for extended periods of time where they’re hypothermic,” Graves said. “We as a community are starting to look past each other.”

Portland Commissioner Rene Gonzalez took to X to warn about the incident, saying that their system was being “hammered” because of the incident and asking people to only call 911 for life or death emergencies.

“Our 911 system is getting hammered this morning with a mass casualty incident – multiple overdoses in northwest park blocks,” Gonzalez posted on social media. “Please do not call 911 except in event of life/death emergency or crime in progress (or chance of apprehending suspect). For non-emergency please use 503-823-3333.”

Since the start of 2023, narcotics and the organized crime units have been alerted to more than 240 overdose cases. A year ago there were 158.

Leaders in the community, like Stanley Penkin of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association, said more needs to be done about behavioral health.

“We need our all our government entities from federal, state, local to come together and really have true and real plans to come up with solutions for our behavioral health problems, of which the addiction crisis is a big part of it,” Penkin said.

The Portland Police Neighborhood Response Team and the Bike Squad also do drug missions on the streets.