May 25, 2022 - News

Commissioners call overdose deaths a public health crisis

Photo: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Travis County commissioners declared a public health crisis Tuesday, responding to the rising number of overdose deaths in the area.

Why it matters: 2021 marked the deadliest year on record for overdose deaths in the county, taking more lives than auto accidents and homicides combined, according to a report by the Travis County medical examiner.

Driving the news: The crisis declaration will allow the county to allocate $350,000 toward harm reduction outreach, staff, and supplies.

  • Plus, the move will allow for monthly commissioner's court meetings with community advocates and expand access to overdose reversal medication and safe syringe disposal.

By the numbers: The latest Travis County data shows that 308 people died of an overdose in 2021.

  • Fentanyl was detected in 118 accidental drug deaths last year, up 30% from the previous year.

Zoom out: Deaths from alcohol and drugs have increased nationwide, but Texas has among the lowest rates in the country, according to a report released this week by health policy organizations.

  • Alcohol, drug, and suicide-related deaths in Texas still increased, just not by as much as in other states. Texas' combined death rates from suicides, drugs, and alcohol jumped 16% in 2020 compared to 2019.
  • The number of Texans dying from synthetic opioids increased 146%, to a rate of 3.6 deaths per 100,000 people in 2020 compared to 2019.

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