TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Travis County commissioners pushed a discussion about a public health crisis declaration tied to drug overdoses and overdose deaths until next week.

Travis County leaders are working to address the drug overdose problem after receiving a startling Travis County Medical Examiner’s 2021 report that showed for the first time in a decade drug overdoses were the leading cause of accidental death in Travis County. Fentanyl was found in more than a third of those cases, a dramatic increase year-over-year.

Travis County Judge Andy Brown said more conversations needed to happen with stakeholders before county leaders take next steps. One of those stakeholders is the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance.

Cate Graziani, the executive director of the THRA, said they’re hoping the county’s response will be twofold: creating a response to the emergency now, but also looking at long-term solutions through the county and city budget.

She said the county has been talking about more funding for Narcan, an overdose reversal drug, and Naloxone, an opioid addiction treatment, but that there also needs to be investments made in the people who are out distributing those tools.

Graziani has also previously urged officials to expand access to harm reduction programs, authorize distribution of fentanyl testing strips — which are illegal in Texas — and create housing programs for people who use drugs.

Travis County leaders said they’ll bring the discussion, with harm reduction groups’ feedback in mind, back to court next week. That’s also when they’re expected to vote on a public health crisis declaration.

“We want this problem to become better managed and handled and we as a community can do that together by putting our information together and working together to talk to our teens about drugs and alcohol and working with our harm reduction partners and giving them the tools that they need,” Dr. Desmar Walkes, the local health authority, said.

When KXAN spoke to JoAnn Lopez, a grandmother of a young victim of fentanyl, about this push for a public health crisis declaration, she said the effort would be “a step in the right direction.”

Lopez’ granddaughter, Victoria Trevino, died after being given a pill that was laced with fentanyl in September, the family said. Lopez said this effort to inform people of the crisis is “a start.”

“This is a real, live, right now problem,” Commissioner Ann Howard said, asking stakeholders to come back to court next week with what direct steps they would like taken. “We’ve got work to do.”