AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Gov. Greg Abbott made addressing the state’s “growing fentanyl crisis” one of his key legislative priorities this session. On Thursday, he announced additional steps the state is taking to curb deaths from a drug that took the lives of 2,012 Texas last year.
Speaking at a summit with state leaders, stakeholders and families of Texans who died from fentanyl poisoning, Abbott announced the state will be doling out millions of dollars to take immediate action while the legislature works on passing bills aiming to curb the crisis.
The Republican governor directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to begin distributing Narcan, an opioid reversal tool, to every county in Texas. Additionally, he announced the state unveiled a $10 million multimedia PSA-style campaign to educate Texans on the dangers of the drug and how to prevent and reverse fentanyl deaths.
“We are eager to distribute life-saving medication to counteract the impacts of the fentanyl crisis,” said TDEM Chief Kidd. “As we work together to help Texas communities combat these deadly drugs, I look forward to working with local officials and first responders to provide medication that reverses the deadly effects of opioids.”
The “One Pill Kills” campaign will be made up of television, radio and online public service announcements and is being led by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Proceeds from Texas’ settlements with pharmaceutical companies and opioid manufacturers are funding the $10 million effort.
Legislative efforts on addressing fentanyl deaths
During his State of the State address, Abbott expressed he wants prosecutors to have the ability to charge those who make, distribute or sell fentanyl with murder. Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, wrote SB 645 to do so, which the Senate has already passed.
So far this session, dozens of bills aiming to increase awareness and prevent deaths from fentanyl have been filed by teams of Republicans and Democrats working together.
One bipartisan bill written by Sen. Nathan Johnson, D-Dallas, and Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood would decriminalize fentanyl testing strips and other tools used to detect fentanyl in other drugs. It’s a measure the governor previously opposed but now supports.
And as the usage of the illegal opioid rises amongst young people, there are also bills aiming to tackle the problem in schools.
SB 629 by Sen. José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, would store Narcan on Texas campuses, requiring school staff to be trained on how to use it.
Overdose deaths involving fentanyl increased by 89% in Texas from 2020 to 2021. And 99% of these deaths are accidental, according to information provided at the summit from the governor’s office, which cited the CDC and DEA on its data.
“Each branch of our administration is informing Texans about this crisis and how they can avoid falling victim to deadly fentanyl,” Abbott said during the summit.