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Travis County has seen a surge of fentanyl overdoses. A new report shows it's not slowing down.

Unoboxed Narcan during a Narcan training event by Austin Public Health at the Central Public Library on May 13.
Patricia Lim
KUT News
Eleven people in Central Texas were killed by fentanyl overdoses late last month, according to Austin-Travis County EMS.

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Fentanyl-related overdoses continue to be the leading cause of accidental overdose deaths in Travis County, according to a new report from the Travis County Medical Examiner's Office.

In 2023, 279 people died from a fentanyl-related overdose — up from 245 the year before. That's about a 14% increase.

Travis County Medical Examiner Keith Pinckard said drug overdose deaths were the number one cause of all accidental deaths in the community ahead of car crashes and falls.

Overall, 486 people overdosed in 2023, which is about a 17% increase from 2022. Over the past four years, the number of drug deaths has roughly doubled, the data shows.

Pinckard said the majority of drug deaths are not due to a single drug but rather multiple drugs in a person’s system. More than half of the people who died from fentanyl-related overdoses also had methamphetamine in their systems.

But, he said, there is some hope that things are improving. From 2021 to 2022, the number of fentanyl deaths more than doubled, but in 2023 the percentage increase in deaths was much lower.

Though that data point is encouraging, Travis County Judge Andy Brown said there is still work to do. As drug overdose deaths continue to increase, he said the county will continue to find ways to intervene.

Last year, the county allocated $860,000 to overdose prevention and mitigation resources, including purchasing Narcan, the life-saving drug used to reverse the effects of an overdose.

This effort has saved many lives, Brown said, including as recently as last month during a surge of overdoses in which 11 people in Central Texas died, according to Austin-Travis County EMS.

All told, 79 people had accidental overdoses in a batch of drugs that contained fentanyl. Many of those people were revived with Narcan.

“These prevention and intervention programs actually did save dozens of lives in a way that I don't know that they would have before we started all this community work,” Brown said.

Austin police have so far been unsuccessful in finding the source of the fentanyl from the April surge. The investigation remains ongoing.

As the county prepares for its 2025 budget cycle, Brown said commissioners will look for ways to increase funding for Narcan and support the county’s strategies around education, prevention and intervention to reduce overdose deaths.

Pinckard's yearly analysis of deaths in the county is available here.

Andrew Weber is a general assignment reporter for KUT, focusing on criminal justice, policing, courts and homelessness in Austin and Travis County. Got a tip? You can email him at Follow him on Twitter @England_Weber.
Luz Moreno-Lozano is the Austin City Hall reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @LuzMorenoLozano.
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