Travis County declares public health crisis over record number of drug overdoses

The Travis County Commissioners Court has declared a public health crisis in Travis County due to drug overdose deaths.

The declaration was approved in a unanimous vote on Tuesday. The vote follows on the heels of the release of the 2021 Medical Examiner’s report which showed the leading cause of accidental deaths in 2021 was drug overdoses. Fentanyl was involved in a third of those overdoses. Overall, fentanyl-related deaths were up 237% compared to the year before.

"This is such a priority," said Judge Andy Brown. "This resolution is an effort to build upon the prior investments that the Commissioners Court has made, that Integral Care has made, that Texas Harm Reduction Alliance has made...a lot of community effort." 

A couple of weeks prior, the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance held a town hall to raise awareness.

"We’re just relieved and happy to see the county taking this so seriously after a long time," said Paulette Soltani, director of organizing for THRA in an interview with FOX 7 after Tuesday's vote.

Under the resolution, the county will earmark $350,000 to go toward funding more naloxone and staffing for local service providers. Going forward, the county will also work with community organizations and develop plans for more education and awareness. County staff will also meet monthly with local harm reductionists.

"Just like we've been able to talk about COVID consistently throughout the pandemic, we were really hoping for a space like that, and that's what we got," said Soltani. "So we're really happy about that piece as well."

The resolution also states that staff provide the Commissioners Court with a report by Oct. 15, 2022 that breaks down the county programs that offer mental health and substance abuse treatment and how county funding is being used to support those programs.