AUSTIN, Texas — People from all over the state took part in what they called a “die-in” at the Texas Capitol Wednesday. They’re calling for policy changes to address the state’s ongoing opioid crisis.

The rally was led by the Texas Harm Reduction Alliance, a nonprofit that does outreach to people in danger of overdosing. The group is calling on the legislature to pass policies that focus on treatment and support, rather than policing and incarceration. 

“More tools are needed in this state, if we’re really going to wrap our hands around this crisis,” said Paulette Soltani, the director of organizing for THRA. 

Gov. Abbott recently voiced support for fentanyl testing strips, a proposal he was previously against. Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that is increasingly being laced into other drugs, leading to a sharp rise in overdose deaths in recent years.

“It’s time that he’s come around on testing strips,” said Soltani. “[But] we know that this is just one tiny piece of what we need across Texas. It’s not the only solution.”

Soltani says the state needs to increase access to overdose reversing drugs like naloxone, fund more treatment centers and expand affordable housing options. 

“We should not be waiting this long to use the lifesaving tools that we know are working in other parts of the country,” said Soltani. 

The CDC estimates more than 5,000 Texans die from a drug-related overdose each year, and that fentanyl-related deaths rose nearly 400% in 2021.