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The number of heroin overdose deaths in Portland and across Oregon has increased significantly in the past nine years, said Dennis Donin, director of development for CODA, a nonprofit drug treatment center in Oregon and Washington that treats 1,000 patients a day.
In 1991 in Oregon, 39 died from heroin overdoses. In 1999, the number had grown to 246 deaths. In Portland's Multnomah County, the death toll went from 22 in 1991 to 153 last year.
Authorities blame the high heroin-related death rate on easy availability of the drug from overseas shipments and a lack of resources to treat addicts in danger of dying from overdoses.
Portland police and Multnomah County health officials are reporting an alarming increase in heroin overdoses.
According to the police, officers responded to three overdose calls in a 24-hour period at the end of the last week.
An officer assisting at one of the calls was accidentally struck with needle on a syringe Friday.
Police believe the overdoses may be caused by an unusually pure supply of heroin in the city. Drug investigators believe it is the purest heroin being dealt in the country.