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Medford police issue Red Alert heroin warning

Police and health authorities are urging Southern Oregon opioid addicts to beware of a dangerous batch of heroin on the streets in the wake of a rash of overdoses — including one fatal overdose.

Jackson County Public Health issued a Red Alert Saturday after hospital emergency rooms and local emergency responders saw a “sharp spike in overdoses” over the past 24 hours believed to be tied to a batch of ultrapotent batch of heroin being distributed in Southern Oregon, according to a joint release with Medford police. Narcotics officers believe what's being sold to drug users as "heroin" could be adulterated with the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Authorities ask users of illicit opioids to abstain from heroin if possible and seek medication assisted treatment, and to have handy the opiate antidote naloxone — also known by the brand name Narcan. For information on treatment see Stay Safe Oregon's website.

If someone is having an overdose, call 911 and seek medical attention. Health officials warn naloxone’s effects can wear off — even if a person overdosing has regained consciousness.

Under Oregon's Good Samaritan Law, individuals who call emergency responders for help with an overdose won't face drug charges and parole violations.

Any Oregon pharmacist is able to prescribe naloxone, but the Red Alert warning prompted two Rogue Valley nonprofits into action Saturday.

Max's Mission, an Ashland-based nonprofit that holds regular naloxone giveaways, donated 45 doses of the drug to Medford-based homeless outreach nonprofit Compassion Highway Project, according to an interview with KTVL.

On top of the Max's Mission naloxone donation, Jackson County Public Health gave Compassion Highway Project about 60 doses of the opiate antidote, according to a public Facebook post shared by Compassion Highway Project's founder and executive director Melissa Mayne.

As of shortly after 1 p.m. Saturday, Mayne estimated that at least 19 people had overdosed. Compassion Highway Project distributed naloxone to homeless people Saturday afternoon, and will distribute more doses of the antidote at the organization's Christmas feed set for 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 22, at Hawthorne Park in Medford.

Stock photo of drug syringe and cooked heroin