AUSTIN (KXAN) — Travis County says its had to jump through hoops to get naloxone to local harm reduction organizations and it can’t pay those groups to distribute the overdose reversal treatment.
The reason: County attorneys say the way a 2015 bill was written technically doesn’t allow it.
“Our interpretation of it is we cannot pay an entity to distribute Narcan or naloxone and I think we can’t even have a financial arrangement to where we’re paying them for something else if they’re distributing Narcan or naloxone.” Travis County Judge Andy Brown said.
Senate Bill 1462 legalized naloxone in Texas, something groups like the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance championed nearly a decade ago.
“Currently, physicians are only allowed to provide opiate overdose antidotes to a patient taking opioids,” Texas Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas County) said on the Senate floor in 2015 before its passing.
Written by West, the bill became law in a bipartisan effort and is now denoted on page 3,729 of Texas’ Health and Safety Code. It’s the reason you can walk into an H-E-B or Walgreens today and buy Narcan.
The section in question for Travis County legal: A person or organization acting under a standing order issued by a prescriber may store an opioid antagonist and may distribute an opioid antagonist, provided the person or organization does not request or receive compensation for storage or distribution.
“I don’t see how you get around that language it seems pretty clear to me,” Brown said. That language, the county argues, means even county staff can’t be paid to help distribute naloxone.
West disagrees with that reading and said unless the county can make a compelling argument for why the law needs to change, it probably won’t.
“No one else has interpreted it that way,” West told KXAN. “I don’t know that we need to do anything at all.”
The Texas Harm Reduction Alliance said in Travis County Commissioner’s court this week that it’s in touch with West about how the law is written.
“I worked on that bill in 2015. I’m in touch with Senator West’s office he said there was never any legislative intent to limit community-based harm reduction organizations like ours from receiving funds to purchase, store and distribute Narcan,” Cate Graziani, co-executive director of the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance, said. “I would love your help in communicating directly what we need to change.”
“I look forward to hearing from them,” West told KXAN.