TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) – Travis County officials and community partners are working to improve trainings and expand access to naloxone within county lines, with a focus on the expansion of naloxone formation and distribution. Naloxone, often referred to by its brand name Narcan, is a drug used to reverse an opioid overdose.
Travis County staff are currently working on agreements with community partnership organizations like Communities for Recovery, Sunrise Community Church, and the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance, among others, to distribute more doses of naloxone and train staff on how to administer the drug. Officials said these are just some of the latest efforts underway after Travis County declared drug overdoses a public health crisis on May 24.
Organizations that sign agreements with Travis County will undergo trainings to ensure they are properly equipped to handle the drug before any doses of naloxone are dispensed. Austin-Travis County EMS will hold the 30-minute virtual trainings, Travis County officials said.
The county’s last order of naloxone is expected to be delivered in the coming weeks. Based on training schedules, the doses will likely be delivered and distributed to organizations by the end of October, officials added.
Planned community listening sessions include:
- Oct. 8: In-person multilingual session.
- Oct. 17: Session for friends, families affected by drug overdoses.
- November 14: Community discussion on recommendations for Travis County on how best to deal with the opioid overdose crisis.
Travis County is also contracting with Communities for Recovery to expand its harm reduction services, an expansion that will include hiring two peer recovery coaches. The county is also investing in kiosks and collection units for the safe disposal of needles and syringes. Officials are currently exploring various community locations throughout the county to figure out where these kiosks should be set up.
Phil Owen of the Austin-area Opioid Task Force presented to the commissioners on Tuesday and said increased access to naloxone is essential to directly address drug toxicities and overdoses. Some notes he relayed during a Sept. 19 community chat included how to recognize symptoms of fentanyl poisoning and overdose; making naloxone available to area schools, which have also suffered the effects of opioid overdoses and fentanyl deaths; and increasing access to peer support and mental health services.
“We are losing our peers and we are losing our children at an alarming rate,” Owen said.
Owen added that the Good Samaritan law in Texas needs more clarity so people feel more compelled to report an overdose and call 911 for help. The Texas Legislature passed Bill 1694 in 2021. However, the resulting law disqualifies many people from protection in Texas – including people who have a prior drug offense conviction and people who have sought medical assistance for an overdose in the past few years. 18 months.
Owen said more protections need to be added to help compel people to call for overdoses, even if they have small amounts of illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia on hand.
“We’re not really saving lives if people aren’t connected to the services they need and want,” he said.