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Austin receives $2 million in federal funding for drug overdose prevention efforts

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Tanya Velázquez
/
KUT
U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett announces $2 million for overdose prevention programs.

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After a spike in the number of fatal drug overdoses last year, Austin is getting $2 million in federal funding for prevention programs, U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) announced Tuesday.

The money will be used to hire more peer-recovery coaches and on a public awareness campaign. City officials said this is the first time Austin has received federal money for this type of effort.

"It's clear from the deaths we've seen of high school students in neighboring counties that this is a problem that afflicts a broad part of our community," Doggett said at a news conference. "And just as we have the city and the county coming together today with federal support, we've got to embrace the entire community."

Travis County saw 199 drug-related overdose deaths in the first six months of 2022 alone. Of those deaths, 118 involved fentanyl. A final tally for the year is expected in the coming weeks.

Doggett was joined by Mayor Kirk Watson, Travis County Judge Andy Brown and Austin Public Health officials to announce the grant. They each shared one sentiment: the lack of state support was making the fight against drug overdoses more difficult.

"Usually in Texas, on health and human service matters, the state is mainly passing through federal dollars," Doggett said. "They're administering; they're not contributing. There is the potential with the [budget] surplus as it is for the state to do more. Last year they ran out of Narcan early and did not supplement the federal dollars that they were administering with state dollars, which would have been really helpful."

Travis County has invested half a million dollars of taxpayer money in overdose prevention programs, Brown said. He said the bulk of that money has been used to buy Narcan and Naloxone and that he hoped the state would make these preventative medications more accessible.

"The state could step in with their surplus ... and make that something that local governments don't have to bear the burden of anymore and fund it for the entire state," he said, "which is what we're advocating for."

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