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Austin leaders declare public health crisis over drug overdoses

Access to Naloxone, an opioid overdose-reversing drug, will be increased. First responders and City departments will be equipped and trained on how to use it.

AUSTIN, Texas — During Thursday's Austin City Council meeting, City leaders declared opioid overdose deaths a public health crisis in the city. With agenda item No. 53 approved, support services will increase in an effort to keep deaths down.

"This will direct opioid settlement money to provide services to combat rising overdoses in our community," Councilmember Vanessa Fuentes tweeted Wednesday.

The Texas Harm Reduction Alliance is one of the city's major partners in the initiative. Organizing Director Paulette Soltani gave her take on what the City needs to do to help stop overdose deaths.

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One of the solutions includes increasing access to Naloxone, an opioid overdose-reversing drug, and equipping and training first responders and City departments on how to use it.

"What we've seen across Austin is that there's a lack of Naloxone," Soltani said. "We need to get that in the hands of every service provider. We need to get that in the hands of the libraries and the parks department. We really need it across Austin." 

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The resolution also calls for increased access to medication-assisted treatment like methadone, which helps people safely come off of opioids. It also creates a comprehensive local plan of action that prioritizes strategies related to prevention treatment and support services.

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