TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Travis County officials and community partners are working to enhance trainings and expand naloxone access within county limits, with a key emphasis on expanding naloxone training and distribution. Naloxone, often referred to 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 naloxone doses and train staff on how to administer the drug. Officials said these are just some of the latest efforts in the works 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’re properly equipped to handle the drug before any naloxone doses are distributed. Austin-Travis County EMS will run the 30-minute virtual trainings, Travis County officials said.
The county’s latest naloxone order is expected to be delivered in the next few weeks. Based on training schedules, the doses will likely be delivered and distributed to organizations by the end of October, officials added.
Community listening sessions planned include:
- Oct. 8: In-person, multilingual session.
- Oct. 17: Session for friends, families impacted by drug overdoses.
- Nov. 14: Community discussion on recommendations for Travis County on how to best address the opioid overdose crisis.
Travis County is also entering into a contract 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 safe disposal of needles and syringes. Officials are currently exploring various community locations countywide for where these kiosks should be set up.
Phil Owen with the Austin Area Opioid Work Group presented before commissioners Tuesday and said increased access to naloxone is essential to directly addressing drug toxicities and overdoses. Some notes he relayed from a Sept. 19 community discussion included how to recognize fentanyl poisoning and overdose symptoms; making naloxone available in area schools, which have also seen the impacts of opioid overdoses and fentanyl deaths; and increasing access to peer support and mental health services.
“We’re losing our peers, and we’re losing our children at an alarming rate,” Owen said.
Owen added Good Samaritan Law in Texas needs further clarity so that people feel more compelled to report an overdose and call 911 for assistance. The Texas Legislature passed House Bill 1694 in 2021. However, the resulting law disqualifies many people from protection in Texas — most notably, people who have been previously convicted of a drug offense and people who have called for medical assistance for an overdose in the last 18 months.
Owen said more protections need to be added to help compel people to call in overdoses, even if they have small amounts of illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia on hand.
“We’re not truly saving lives unless people are connected to services they need and want,” he said.