TRAVIS COUNTY, Texas — Travis County commissioners will declare a public health crisis on Tuesday to protect people’s health and safety related to drug overdose.

Drug toxicity is the No. 1 cause of accidental deaths in Travis County in 2021, according to the Travis County Medical Examiner Annual Report. There are more drug-related deaths than falls and car accidents. The report also shows that the amount of overdose deaths due to fentanyl increased 237% from 2020 to 2021.

“The risk of overdose in our community constitutes a significant threat to the public safety and health of our community,” said Commissioner Margaret Gomez. “The COVID-19 pandemic has increased stress and exacerbated the problems associated with substance use. We must take steps to address this.”

This public health crisis declaration is meant to raise awareness and provide education related to overdose death and use of fentanyl. It will dedicate $350,000 for overdose prevention efforts. This includes $150,000 to increase the availability of Naxolene in the community and overdose prevention kits, as well as $200,000 to community staff to provide harm-reduction services.

“This effort will save lives in our community by treating overdose deaths like the public health crisis they are,” said Travis County Judge Andy Brown. “Today, the Commissioners Court will take an important step to employ lifesaving, harm-reduction strategies to those who overdose or are at risk of overdosing on drugs which is the number one cause of accidental deaths in our community.”

The declaration will also look into current county investments in mental health, behavioral health and substance use treatments.

“As overdose deaths continue to surge, we need to meet this crisis by putting resources into communities most at risk. That’s exactly what this declaration does,” said Paulette Soltani with Texas Harm Reduction Alliance. “We want to thank Judge Brown, Commissioner Gomez, and the rest of the Court for taking action. These funds will go towards building the critical harm reduction infrastructure we so badly need and will give our communities on the ground a voice.”