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County moves ahead with plan to expand community access to naloxone

Wednesday, July 13, 2022 by Seth Smalley

Travis County Health and Human Services has identified a vendor to implement its plan to increase access to the opioid overdose-reversing drug naloxone in the community. The plan, which will cost approximately $350,000, is part of HHS’ response to the Travis County Commissioners Court’s May 24 declaration of a public health crisis related to drug overdoses.

Laura Peveto, division director for HHS, told commissioners on June 28 that the vendor, Cardinal Pharmaceuticals, “is primarily used by STAR Flight and other county first responders to have naloxone available to them as they respond to emergency situations.”

HHS updated county commissioners on the other actions the county plans to take to address the overdose crisis. Those include:

  • work with community organizations on a plan to raise awareness and increase education about the risk of overdose
  • schedule a monthly meeting with HHS, county staff and harm reductionists as well as impacted community members who have experienced jail time, overdoses or homelessness
  • explore methods to increase prescription of naloxone and potential funding pathways
  • report on existing county programs that provide mental health, behavioral health and substance use treatment
  • identify and record ways to collect and dispose of hazardous materials such as syringes and drug paraphernalia
  • articulate the Commissioners Court’s position in favor of legalizing fentanyl test strips and expanding Good Samaritan laws in addition to its positions against legislation that would lead to more arrests or unnecessary punitive actions against addicts

For each directive outlined by the court, HHS provided actions it has taken or plans made to achieve the goal.

HHS, in conversation with a group of community members, decided to allot the entire $350,000 to contract with Communities for Recovery, a local nonprofit providing recovery coaching, support groups and a community center.

Commissioner Ann Howard asked why Communities for Recovery received the full allotment, instead of similar organizations.

“They have been in the background discussions with all of these partners for an extended period of time,” Peveto explained. “They have been piloting a program with both Sunrise and the Other Ones Foundation in which they’ve sent peer recovery staff to interact on the ground with the individuals most impacted.”

Peveto also said HHS met with the city’s public information office, which will help take the lead on the directive to raise awareness of the overdose problem and educate the public.

HHS will continue to deliver updates for the next six months at the last Commissioners Court session of each month.

Photo by Intropin, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons. This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that HHS will be working with the city’s office of public information.

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