AUSTIN (KXAN) — A family in Florida is looking for answers after their son died in Travis County’s jail late last year. A state death report shows the 46-year-old died from complications tied to drug use.
Kyle Wagner was arrested and died in August of 2022, according to the Travis County Sheriff’s Office. His family says he was arrested on a parole violation.
Documents show Wagner identified himself as a drug user at booking, so he was put on withdrawal protocols and placed in a medical unit.
The next morning, Wagner was found unresponsive. His cause of death was listed as accidental “toxic effects of heroin.”
“He was our son. I mean, he wasn’t, he wasn’t a perfect person. I’m not gonna lie about that. But he was my firstborn. And we truly miss him,” his dad, with the same name, said. “You know, these people need help. They don’t need jail.”
That help was out of reach for this family. The money required to help Wagner get clean prior to his arrest was something the family didn’t have. They’re on social security.
“Everything was $10,000 to get him away for ya know 15-20 days,” his dad said.
The Texas Association of Addiction Professionals is pushing the Texas Legislature to look at the price tag of treatment this session. The president-elect of the organization says Medicare, Medicaid and state reimbursements all fall well short of covering rehab.
“The testing strips, the opioid stuff, that’ll prevent the overdoses. But we’re not bridging the gap from keeping them from dying to getting them to those recovery houses,” Joseph Gorordo said.
Without being reimbursed, non-profits can’t expand. Gorordo says many places are having to place people on wait lists as a result.
“Very often when we have individuals who are ready to seek help, we have a really short window of willingness or someone calls and they’re in that place where they’re ready to accept help,” he said. “And when they get told, ‘okay, you need a call back every day, for the next two weeks, and maybe we can get you in.’ That’s, that’s a recipe for disaster.”
That means people like Wagner are often left without affordable treatment options in Texas. In this case, despite landing in the jail’s medical unit, help came too late.
“I don’t want this to just be swept under the rug as another drug story,” Regina Wagner, his mom, said.
The Travis County Sheriff’s Office did not comment on Wagner’s case beyond what it had previously released.
TAAP is advocating for changes during the legislative session, which started Tuesday. They are asking others to get involved and contact their lawmakers as well. You can find TAAP’s efforts on their website.