2022 HEALTH CARE EDITION
TOOLS TO COMBAT DRUG OVERDOSE
NALOXONE, NARCAN Carried by emergency medics and Austin police ocers and are available through many nonprot organizations, including the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance and the Other Ones Foundation
• Four in 10 street/counterfeit pills contain fentanyl. • Roughly 2 milligrams is a fatal dose. • The average pill found on the street contains 0.02-5.1 milligrams with 42% of pills tested having a lethal dose.
Drugs such as methadone and buprenorphine are used in medicine-assisted treatment programs for individuals struggling with opioid dependency
A penny compared to 2 milligrams of fentanyl
SOURCE: DRUG ENFORCEMENT AGENCY COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
until a treatment spot opens. “We can’t force people into treat- ment, but we can provide resources to those who do,” Pickett said. A local crisis In 2017, HHS declared the opioid epidemic a national health crisis. “We heard about the opioid crisis, and it was always in di¢erent states and even di¢erent counties until our county was one of the top ve for the number of emergency department opioid-related visits in Texas,” Walkes said at a May 17 Commissioners Court meeting. Both the Austin and Travis County leaders hope to use settlements fund received from lawsuits against opioid
manufacturers and distributors to pay for the measures. The THRA town hall was not just to bring visibility to the crisis, but to advocate for locally adopting a harm-reduction approach. “It’s not as simple as saying, ‘Hey, here is some Narcan,’ but building rela- tionships with some people,” Graziani said. “It could be meeting people, and they might say, ‘I need food or water. I need wound care.’ That’s how rela- tionships are built; then you can have those educational conversations.” The THRA’s work centers on pub- lic health-focused drug policy and low-barrier access to treatment. This includes providing supplies, such as clean needles, fentanyl test strips
and naloxone, and drug education as well as addressing wraparound needs, such as hygiene and housing. The THRA is advocating for o- cials to treat overdoses as a health issue, rather than focusing on law enforcement. Graziani said research shows the “war on drugs” method of strict enforcement and tough sentencing is not e¢ective and has disproportion- ately targeted communities of color and low-income individuals. The Austin Police Department declined requests for interviews for this story. The Travis County Sheri¢’s Oce is working to expand education around fentanyl within the county jail, said
Kristen Dark, spokesperson for the Travis County Sheri¢’s Oce. She said she is also in talks with local districts to discuss education opportunities. Cristina Nguyen, Austin ISD media manager, said the district counselors meet with students to conduct well- ness checks and provide information to families around drug awareness. “As someone who has been working on this for many, many years, [the emergency declaration] is kind of a his- toric win because this is the rst time the county has shown real support for harm reduction,” Graziani said.
For more information, visit communityimpact.com .
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SOUTHWEST AUSTIN DRIPPING SPRINGS EDITION • JUNE 2022
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