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PRESS RELEASE: Texas Opioid Abatement Fund Council Hears State Agencies’ Responses to Ongoing Fentanyl Crisis

TEXAS, October 7 - October 7, 2022

Texas Opioid Abatement Fund Council Hears State Agencies’ Responses to Ongoing Fentanyl Crisis

(AUSTIN) — Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar recently chaired a meeting of the Texas Opioid Abatement Fund Council (OAFC) to discuss what state agencies are doing to combat the ongoing fentanyl crisis. Officials from more than half a dozen state agencies, including the Department of Public Safety (DPS), Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), gave presentations detailing the scope of the current fentanyl crisis in Texas, strategies for abatement response and the deployment of #onepillkills, a cross-agency anti-fentanyl communication plan.

“Texas agencies made clear they are taking this crisis seriously and are utilizing available resources to fight against this deadly epidemic,” Hegar said. “From combating criminal activity at the border, to deploying an array of communication strategies to educate Texans on the dangers of fentanyl, and utilizing targeted behavioral health interventions to treat opioid use disorder, the state is actively working to abate this crisis.”

Texas DPS Director Col. Steven McCraw highlighted an “epidemic of opioid overdoses.” Since March 2021, DPS has seized enough fentanyl to kill over 337 million Americans, he said. McCraw attributed the rise in fentanyl to drug cartels that are producing and smuggling fentanyl across the Texas-Mexico border and gangs that are distributing this deadly product within Texas and the United States.

More than 2,700 Texans were killed by drug overdoses in 2019, according to a study from HHSC. The Department of State Health Services (DSHS), in collaboration with leadership at HHSC and input from partners and stakeholders, laid out its action plan to address substance abuse in Texas, which has three public health areas of focus: surveillance, education and resource development. The plan, officials said, has already led to some key accomplishments, such as better data reporting. Other developments include new online resources for continuing education related to substance abuse and for connecting people to treatment and recovery services.

Officials from HHSC and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice also discussed the need for broadband services across the state to improve access to treatment through telehealth services, especially in rural and underserved areas that may have few or no healthcare providers.

TEA officials discussed their immediate response to reach parents, students and caregivers. Each school superintendent was sent a letter citing data on the prevalence and lethality of fentanyl. School systems have been provided with a list of targeted resources that are available now to initiate local prevention efforts. 

TEA also explained the dual meaning behind certain emojis. Drug traffickers are using emojis to advertise and sell counterfeit pills and other illicit drugs through texts and on social media. TEA cited a poster intended to give parents and caregivers a better sense of how this language is being used in connection with illegal drugs. TEA is working on developing communication materials for school systems and providing materials to equip parents and caregivers with important information and convening awareness events.

The meeting concluded with a commitment by the OAFC to prepare processes and procedures to guide future funding decisions, with the goal of maximizing the impact of opioid settlement dollars by ensuring they fund effective, evidence-based programs.

OAFC, overseen by the Comptroller’s office, was formed to ensure money recovered through the joint efforts of the state and its political subdivisions through a statewide opioid settlement agreement is allocated fairly and spent to remediate the opioid crisis using efficient, cost-effective methods.