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Gov. Abbott launches $10 million campaign targeting fentanyl crisis in Texas

 Gov. Greg Abbott has announced a $10 million campaign targeting the fentanyl crisis in Texas.
Gabriel C. Pérez
Gov. Greg Abbott has announced a $10 million campaign targeting the fentanyl crisis in Texas.

Gov. Greg Abbott has launched a $10 million campaign to combat the fentanyl crisis.

The Texas Tribune reports the effort sends medication to reverse overdoses to all 254 Texas counties and launches a multimedia effort with the tagline “One Pill Kills.”

Stephen Simpson covers mental health at the Texas Tribune and joined Texas Standard to discuss the new initiative. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Tell us a little bit about this “One Pill Kills” campaign. What’s the message exactly? How are they putting this campaign together? And has the state ever tried anything like this before? 

Stephen Simpson: So this is going to be sort of a campaign that’s going to almost be COVID-like where they’re going to try to do billboards, advertisements, radio hits, TV, things like that, to try to get the message out that fentanyl is here in Texas and to kind of keep being aware of what kind of drugs you are taking or even where you’re buying some of the stuff, because there’s too many counterfeit pills out there.

I see that. I read that the state is also sending overdose reversal drugs to all 254 counties. How is that part of the program supposed to work? 

So the way this will work is that they’re going to start off with the 20,000 Narcan doses and they’re going to pass these around to all the local sheriff’s departments in the county. These sheriffs can make these requests at the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) or to the DPS. And once those things get approved, the sheriff’s department will be the ones that will be distributing this Narcan around.

So let’s talk a little bit about costs. The Narcan, I would presume, is not free. And of course, you’ve got to produce these ads. Where’s this money coming from? 

So the Narcan is going to be coming from the drug settlement fund that Texas made with opioid manufacturers, while the $10 million campaign will be coming from HHSC, but from federal funding that they received.

I see. So what more can you tell us about why Gov. Abbott is doing this? I mean, the Legislature’s in session and I know that there has been some degree of discussion among lawmakers about what to do about what has been described, by many, as a crisis – a fentanyl crisis in Texas. 

So Abbott said that at this point in time that so many Texans are dying from fentanyl overdoses — it’s almost averaging five a day. He said this has reached to a point to where it’s almost terroristic action coming across the border. And so he’s doing this, in step with multiple others, to kind of lock down sort of Texas from this drug.

I want to get back to a question that I had. I know is sort of a compound question, but I think it’s an important one to ask. And that is are you aware or can you recall any similar effort in the past that the state has made to try to alert people about the dangers of a specific drug? I mean, “Just Say No” notwithstanding, this seems to be very much targeted to fentanyl. 

I’ve known they’ve had some like Narcan awareness campaigns and things like that. But this was the first one that’s completely focused on fentanyl by itself. This one’s going to pretty much be a fentanyl awareness combined with preventing fentanyl overdoses at the same time. So it’s kind of a new way to approach this.

You know, I think this dovetails with something that the Texas Tribune is doing to focus on fentanyl. Could you tell us about that?

So the Texas Tribune will be hosting a conversation called “What Should Texas Be Doing About Fentanyl?” where we will bring lawmakers and advocates together to sort of talk about the issues that are happening here in Texas, specifically about fentanyl and sort of how we can prevent this and sort of how we got here. People can register for this event at TexasTribuneEvents.org and they can register and contact anybody at the Tribune to sort of get their names on that list.

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