Travis County commissioners took another stride toward overdose prevention Nov. 28 as they agreed to partner with local nonprofits to distribute Narcan—a brand of the overdose reversal drug naloxone—to 13 Austin bars.

Travis County will also work with the nonprofit Safe Haven to provide training to bartenders and staff on how to administer the medication.

A total of 180 doses are being distributed to 13 bars run by FBR Management, which owns Star Bar, Lala’s Little Nugget, Mean Eyed Cat and others.

”What we're doing is enabling our community members to be first responders,” said Christie Mokry, community health worker at Integral Care, adding that Narcan will be available to anyone, including bar patrons, to save someone overdosing.

Narcan is a nasal spray that blocks the effects of opioids to the brain and quickly restores breathing in someone experiencing an overdose, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Narcan does not have an effect on individuals who do not have opioids in their system, according to NIDA.

Travis County leaders also approved a $175,000 contract Nov. 29 with Communities for Recovery to help direct people with substance abuse disorder to services at Sunrise Homeless Navigation Center and The Other One’s Foundation.

The contract provides one-time funding for two peer support specialists—people with lived experience who have been certified by the state and given special training, said Laura Peveto, division director for health and human services for Travis County.

The goal of the program is to connect people with substance abuse disorder to services that they specifically request rather than telling the client what services they should start using, Peveto said.

Travis County commissioners have been ramping up efforts to prevent overdoses since the medical examiner's report revealed 308 people died of drug overdose in 2021, a 30% increase from the year before. In just the first six months of 2022, there were 199 overdoses, 118 of them fentanyl-related.

Introducing Narcan to the community has received support from other Texas leaders, as Gov. Greg Abbott advocated for state funding for Narcan at an October press conference, and Austin ISD recently made a policy tweak to allow campus nurses to administer Narcan to students in emergencies.

The Texas Harm Reduction Alliance also received Narcan due to Austin Public Health. Just this year, THRA has reversed over 541 overdoses, said Paulette Soltani, an organizer for the nonprofit.

“What we hope everyone understands is that everyone is capable of saving a life. If you have the training, if you have the tools you need, you can keep our community safe,” Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza said.

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