AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday he’s going to take steps to allow someone to be prosecuted more harshly for giving non-prescription fentanyl to another person.
This statewide push to take direct action for what officials have called a “fentanyl crisis” comes just a week after a dramatic uptick in opiate overdoses in downtown Austin.
Abbott said while people may overdose and die after repeatedly taking opioids, that’s not always the case with fentanyl.
“They’re taking a drug, a pill for the first time, and it’ll kill them,” Abbott said. “This is not a fentanyl overdose. This is poisoning by fentanyl, which we want to make a murder crime in the state of Texas.”
Pressed pills can be laced with fentanyl, and people may not realize they’re ingesting the potentially deadly substance. That was the case for a family in Cedar Park as well as a Texas Longhorn linebacker last year.
Abbott blames the increase in opioids in Texas on a lack of border security.
But, The Texas Harm Reduction Office argues there should be more funding for safe injection sites and other resources used to allow safe drug use — designed to reduce overdoses.
The group held a rally Thursday, marching to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s office in Austin and asking for him to support harm reduction services, rather than ending them.
“Harm Reduction workers in Texas fear the GOP is planning to threaten the shutdown of the federal government during the March 11th Continuing Resolution Vote if Harm Reduction Services are not defunded,” the Texas Harm Reduction said.
Aaaron Ferguson, a person who said he uses drugs, feels the fentanyl crisis has more to do with the supply rather than the demand.
“We have been trying to cut off the supply of drugs for the last 100 years,” Ferguson said.
Abbott said recent overdoses in Texas are among new drug users, citing CDC data he said shows fentanyl was the leading cause of death for 18 to 45 year olds last year.
Though the opioid crisis is a complex issue, most who are fighting to find ways to address what’s happening across the state agree on one thing: immediate action needs to be taken to save lives.
“If we don’t start meeting that crisis with care and compassion and love, we’re going to continue to see our family members die of preventable overdoses,” Paulette Soltani, a harm reduction worker said.