AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a continuing fight against fentanyl, Gov. Greg Abbott launched an awareness campaign called “One Pill Kills.” The governor held a roundtable discussion with state and local law enforcement Monday outlining actions state officials have taken against the deadly drug so far.
Abbott also announced new laws to be considered in the upcoming legislative session that would classify fentanyl as a poisoning, allow charging an individual for murder if they distribute fentanyl or drugs laced with fentanyl that kill someone and make naloxone more readily available across the state.
Fentanyl has been in headlines all over the country this year as the overdose death toll from the drug keeps rising. Abbott called it the single deadliest drug threat Texas and the nation have ever encountered, saying it kills four Texans every day.
“Fentanyl is a clandestine killer,” Abbott said at the roundtable, before outlining some of the steps the state has taken to combat the crisis.
“I am proud to announce the launch of the State of Texas’ comprehensive ‘One Pill Kills’ campaign to remind Texans that just one pill laced with fentanyl can take someone’s life,” Abbott continued. “Together, we will protect more innocent lives from being lost to this deadly drug.”
Carilu Bell lost her son, Casey, to fentanyl last year. She’s on board with additional state education that can warn young people about fentanyl being mixed in pressed pills and other drugs, but it was the governor’s pointing to the legislative session that really caught her attention. Bell is one of the parents in Austin who has been pushing for harsher penalties for drug dealers and distributors.
“I think if someone, their toxicology report came back with arsenic, certainly it would be investigated. Fentanyl is a poison and I think warrants the same,” Bell said.
The executive director of Recovery Unplugged Austin, an addiction treatment program that utilizes music, said he’s worried the governor’s campaign leans into scare tactics, which he said don’t stop drug use or distribution. But Abbott’s attempt to increase Narcan availability is something he thinks will help.
“I would love to see some specifics on how much Narcan is the state going to purchase, how are they going to be distributing this, but there’s some real potential to save some lives,” Joseph Gorordo said.
The governor will need lawmakers, who don’t meet until January, to make some of those changes.
“I think that this conversation is going to be had in the legislation because this is the conversation that the people of Texas are having,” Gorordo said.
Fighting fentanyl in Texas
Last month, Abbott asked state agencies to ramp up state efforts to combat the fentanyl crisis. He ordered them to outline statutory changes, budget priorities and other initiatives 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.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has also been in the fight against opioids. Earlier this month, he announced a pilot program called “Friday Night Lights Against Opioids.”
Paxton said they’ll give out more than 3.5 million home kits at high school football programs statewide between Oct. 27 and Dec. 17. The kits can be taken home and used to destroy illegal or leftover prescription drugs.
In Austin, the N.I.C.E. Project (Narcan in Case of Emergency) partnered with Sunrise Homeless Navigation Center to install the city’s first Narcan vending machine in August. The medication is an emergency treatment that can quickly reverse an opioid overdose, and it’s available 24/7 at the vending machine.