AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to state agency leaders on Tuesday directing them to ramp up state efforts to combat the ongoing fentanyl crisis.

Abbott’s office wrote in a press release that Texas saw an 89% increase in fentanyl-related deaths in 2021 compared to 2020. The Texas Medical Association also issued a warning about the deadly drug earlier this year after seeing an increase in overdose deaths.

“We must take all appropriate actions to inform Texans of this danger and prevent additional deaths,” the letter reads in part. “Together we can help bring awareness to the threat posed by fentanyl and do our part to address this crisis.”

This comes just weeks after Abbott announced new efforts state leaders will take to combat the opioid crisis. He said at an event that he’d support passing a law “that would ensure dealers who provide drugs laced with deadly opioids are charged for murder when their product poisons innocent Texans,” per a release.

He also added at the time that the state will expand access to Narcan, an opioid overdose treatment, and coordinate on a statewide substance abuse recovery program.

As the Texas Legislature prepares for its next session, Abbott has ordered state agencies to outline statutory changes, budget priorities and other initiatives that his office believes will enhance the state’s ability to intercept access to the synthetic opioid, provide emergency overdose treatment and expand substance abuse treatment programs.

Agencies can coordinate with the Texas Opioid Abatement Fund Council to further amplify efforts, per the release.

Abbott also directed relevant state agencies to begin coordinating efforts to raise awareness of the drug’s lethality and prevalence.

Agency leaders are instructed to inform the Texans they serve of the full dangers of fentanyl by taking actions such as developing public service announcements, posting flyers in prominent locations around regulated facilities, training staff and providing educational opportunities to the people agencies serve.

The letter was issued to leaders of state agencies that serve populations that may be affected by fentanyl, including the following:

  • Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath
  • Texas Department of Public Safety Director Colonel Steven McCraw
  • Texas Health and Human Services Commission Executive Commissioner Cecile Young
  • Texas Department of State Health Services Commission Dr. John Hellerstedt
  • Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner Jaime Masters
  • Texas Juvenile Justice Department Interim Executive Director Shandra Carter
  • Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Commissioner Dr. Harrison Keller
  • Texas Workforce Commission Executive Director Ed Serna
  • Texas Department of Criminal Justice Executive Director Brian Collier

Fentanyl in Central Texas

Fentanyl has not only had a national and statewide impact, but it has hit close to home as well.

The Hays County Sheriff’s Office recently expanded overdose tracking efforts after the overdose deaths of four Hays ISD students within an approximate two-month period.

Austin also installed its first Narcan vending machine last month, providing 24/7 access to the emergency, life-saving treatment.