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Travis County to provide Austin bars with Narcan to prevent overdose deaths

People sit outside a bar at night.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Thirteen bars in Austin will receive Narcan as part of a county-led effort to prevent fentanyl overdoses.

In response to a recent surge in fentanyl overdoses, Travis County plans to start providing bars in Austin with Narcan, a nasal spray used to reverse the effects of opioids.

In the first six months of 2022 alone, there were 118 overdoses in Travis County related to fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, according to county data. That’s the same number the county saw in all of last year.

Travis County Judge Andy Brown says a state law prohibits the county from directly giving bars funding to buy Narcan, so the county found a loophole. The county will give a nonprofit, such asIntegral Care, the drug, and that organization will then partner with businesses to distribute it.

“What we're doing is enabling our community members to be first responders,” said Christie Mokry, a community health worker with Integral Care. “What that means is that in the bars, they'll have [Narcan] just available for anyone. And so if there's an overdose in a bar or something like that, they will be able to get medication at that time.”

Thirteen bars through FBR Management, an Austin organization that owns and supports a number of local bars, will be getting a total of 180 Narcan doses in this first round of distribution.

Max Moreland, the chief operating officer of FBR Management, said that especially with staffing shortages in the Austin Police Department and among first responders, using Narcan at bars can “extend that lifeline” for folks who may have overdosed.

“We'd like to be prepared and hopefully save some lives,” Moreland said.

During a Travis County Commissioners Court meeting this week, county officials are also planning to pass $175,000 in funding for peer recovery programs for survivors of overdose, through the local nonprofit Communities for Recovery.

Brown also says he plans to support legislative efforts this upcoming session to overturn the law that labels fentanyl strips as drug paraphernalia, as well as support bills that combat fentanyl overdose.

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Haya Panjwani is a general assignment reporter, with a focus on Travis County. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @hayapanjw.
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