AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Tuesday, local leaders are expected to announce federal money is coming to Austin to combat a growing number of overdose deaths in Travis County.
It comes as we wait for the 2022 Travis County Medical Examiner’s report to reveal just how deadly this year was for drug users. In the first six months of 2022, there were already the same number of fentanyl overdose deaths reported as in all of 2021 — at 118 deaths.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) is among the leaders making the announcement this week.
“It will go in[to] training, so we have more people out on the streets and elsewhere working with families, community leaders, to try to get the word out about prevention and then rescue as well,” Doggett said.
Exactly how much money won’t be revealed until the Tuesday announcement, but Doggett said it will largely go to Austin Public Health “to try to help the programs that are underway expand and have a permanent presence as long as we have this challenge.”
Overdose deaths — fentanyl in particular — are top of mind for Doggett and other Texas lawmakers right now as the legislative session is underway.
The president-elect of the Texas Association of Addiction Professionals said they’re hopeful this session will bring big change.
There’s support across the aisle for harm reduction tools and treatments including: the legalization of fentanyl testing strips, increasing access to recovery housing and changing the way the state handles opioid prescriptions in pharmacies.
“But the biggest issue right now with access is that there’s just not enough residential detox and residential treatment beds. And a big part of that is the state’s funding for these services are inadequate,” Joseph Gorordo, the president-elect of TAAP, said.
Doggett also wants to see the state push more money to the issue and said he’s working this session, and outside of the legislature, to bring more money to Central Texas for resources.
“I hope we can see some resources here. Not only what I’m doing tomorrow but working with the city and the county, I’ll be seeking additional grant money,” he said.