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As statewide funding for Narcan dries up, harm reduction groups ask for help

Posted at 2:56 PM, Aug 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-08 19:46:19-04

Texas overdose prevention groups are struggling to get the life-saving overdose treatment naloxone, or Narcan, as the state runs out of federal funding.

The Texas Target Opioid Response program, "More Narcan Please", is no longer accepting naloxone requests as resources dry up. Funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, TTOR allocates a certain amount towards the Narcan distribution program each year. For fiscal year 2022, it allocated $4.65 million, down from nearly $6 million in 2021, as originally reported in the Texas Tribune.

Central Texas Harm Reduction, a Waco-based group dedicated to preventing drug overdoses and providing tools to prevent fentanyl deaths, said it has had to find other ways to access Narcan,

"We have had tremendous difficulty in securing the necessary amount of Narcan to meet the demand created by the fentanyl contaminated drug supply," executive director Richard Bradshaw said.

The harm reduction group has relied on community partners and donations to stock its naloxone supply.

The Texas A&M Opioid Task Force attributes this statewide struggle to less federal funding and more demand for the life-saving tool.

"The trends are two directions. One, more opioid overdoses. Two, less availability of Narcan," said task force co-chair Marcia Ory.

The CDC reports a 15.72% increase in overdose deaths in Texas in 2021.

Ory said a possible solution is the state using the settlements it recently received from an agreement with several pharmaceutical companies to create a sustainable program outside of the federal grant money.

"It needs to be more than just paying for Narcan," she said, "It needs to be...a holistic program, that has prevention, and control, and recovery all together."

Caleb Boaz, a Central Texan in recovery, said the medication has saved his life multiple times.

"I've been in recovery for 17 months, almost 18 months. And what gave me the opportunity to get into this, I think, is being revived by Narcan," he said.

Boaz, who currently works for a Central Texas recovery program, advocates for more supply of naloxone and hopes to help end the stigma surrounding opioid use and treatment.

"It's really unfortunate that it takes a death to see how you could've prevented it," Boaz said.

In recent years, more law enforcement agencies have armed officers with naloxone, as a way to reverse an overdose before medical attention arrives on scene.

Dose of naloxone can also be purchased at pharmacies without a prescription.