TRAVIS COUNTY (KXAN) — For the first time in a decade, drug overdoses were the leading cause of accidental deaths in Travis County.
Newly released data from the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office 2021 annual report found that 308 people died from accidental drug toxicity, compared to 282 fatal falls and 170 motor vehicle fatalities in 2021. Historically, falls have been the leading cause of accidental deaths countywide.
Accidental drug overdoses surpassed both falls and motor vehicle deaths in 2011, with 181 overdoses reported.
Countywide, drug overdoses have been steadily rising, with county data reporting a 25% increase between 2020 and 2021. Within the past decade, drug toxicity deaths jumped more than 70%, from 181 deaths in 2011 to 308 confirmed last year.
When it comes to drug-related deaths involving fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, those figures skyrocketed: Fentanyl was detected in 35 drug toxicity deaths in 2020 and 118 drug ODs in 2021 — a 237% increase.
“That’s a very disturbing trend,” Travis County Judge Andy Brown said during Tuesday’s commissioners court meeting.
He addressed the latest batch of data during an item authorizing the use of $50,000 to fund methadone treatment within the county. The funding approved a contract with Addiction and Psychotherapy Services to assist with opioid addiction recovery services.
The approved item followed a previous line up approved by the court last August, which authorized $100,000 in one-time funding for methadone treatment services. Alongside Addiction and Psychotherapy Services, the county also approved a contract with Community Medical Services, in addition to existing contracts with Integral Care.
Methadone treatment is available to county residents who are at least 18 years old, be clinically approved to receive MAT services, are uninsured or whose insurance doesn’t fully cover the cost of treatment and whose income level is at or below 200% of the federal poverty income guidelines.
Travis County’s MAT services approval coincided with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s first-ever recognition of National Fentanyl Awareness Day.
“Fentanyl is killing Americans at unprecedented rates,” DEA Administrator Anne Milgram said in a release. “On this first-ever National Fentanyl Awareness Day, please help save lives by making sure you talk with your friends and family about the dangers of this deadly drug.”