Texas ramps up efforts to prevent fentanyl overdoses and deaths

Texas is taking decisive action to combat the fentanyl epidemic that has plagued the state, claiming multiple lives. Governor Greg Abbott recently announced two statewide initiatives aimed at addressing the synthetic opioid crisis during the One Pill Kills summit in Austin last Thursday.

The summit brought together healthcare professionals, law enforcement agencies, and families affected by fentanyl. One mother who lost her son to fentanyl, Debbie Petersen of Carrollton, was present at the summit and expressed her gratitude for being in the company of other parents who have shared her loss.

Describing her son, Petersen recalled that he was a “30-year-old genius IQ” who was passionate about skateboarding, movies, music, and had a YouTube channel. He was working on his master’s degree at the University of Texas in Arlington before his untimely death. Texas is now determined to break the stigmas associated with fentanyl victims and is striving to create new awareness programs to prevent further loss of lives.

The recent summit featured panel discussions among parents, healthcare professionals, and law enforcement agencies on the best strategies to combat fentanyl. The participants discussed how cooperation among these groups would enhance efforts to reduce fentanyl-related deaths.

Stephanie Hellstern of the North Texas Fentanyl Coalition, who also lost her son to fentanyl, stressed the importance of breaking stigmas and educating the public about the drug’s dangers in saving lives. She questioned why there are no Public Service Announcements (PSAs) or education currently available to help aggressively fight the crisis.

To this end, Governor Abbott has launched a two-part plan to combat fentanyl. The first component is a new $10 million multimedia awareness initiative that will educate Texans on how to prevent, recognize, and reverse fentanyl poisonings. The awareness initiative will form part of the statewide “One Pill Kills” campaign and will take various forms, such as billboards, website and social media advertisements, and radio spots.

The second component is the distribution of Naloxone, or Narcan, which will be provided to all 254 Texas counties by the Texas Division of Emergency Management. This drug can reverse the impact of a fentanyl overdose.

Governor Abbott emphasized that “with five Texans losing their lives every day to this clandestine killer… we will save more innocent lives from being lost to the scourge of fentanyl.”

The program was developed through an association between HHSC and the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, which will create a multimedia initiative to educate the public about fentanyl’s risks and how to use Narcan to save those exposed to the deadly drug.

The new media campaign is aimed at young people, adults, and educators across Texas, using billboards, website and social media advertisements, Spanish radio announcements, and other forms of media.

Governor Abbott’s announcement came one day after a 13-year-old student in Carrollton had to be revived several times with Narcan in a middle school classroom. The school district has experienced an increase in fentanyl overdoses and deaths in recent months, and the police have made arrests in connection to these cases. Irving Police have also issued warning flyers about fentanyl, having seen an increase in arrests and overdoses among school-age children over the last two years.

Efforts to raise awareness about fentanyl have been boosted after Van Zandt County launched an all-new fentanyl task force this week following a 13-year-old’s overdose. The student was taken to Children’s Hospital in Dallas, where he is still fighting for his life.

This was the second fentanyl-related incident in that particular school within the last 30 days. One day after the task force was created, officials arrested a suspected fentanyl drug dealer, seizing 150 fentanyl pills. Officials warn that drug dealers are selling fentanyl with Narcan, which is causing more problems.

Currently, the Texas Legislature is considering House Bill 3908, which would make fentanyl education and awareness mandatory in schools across the state. Petersen is asking parents to talk to their neighbors, children, and friends and let them know that fentanyl is no longer just being found in illegal drugs; it is now being put in every drug out there. The recent initiatives are aimed at changing the narrative on fentanyl and saving more lives.


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