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Gov. Greg Abbott says state should fund distribution of medication that can reverse opioid overdose

Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday said he wants to see greater access to medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose, such as Narcan.
Kaylee Greenlee Beal
The Texas Tribune
Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday said he wants to see greater access to medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose, such as Narcan.

While not detailing how the distribution might be funded, Abbott said the medication, Narcan, should be distributed to law enforcement agencies as well as some hospitals and schools.

BEAUMONT — Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday said the state should fund the distribution of an overdose reversal medication to help curb the growing number of opioid-related deaths.

During a press conference at the Department of Public Safety headquarters in Beaumont, the governor blamed President Joe Biden’s border policies for allowing an influx of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that has contributed to a nationwide increase in overdose deaths. But in a marked shift from his previous laser focus on border security, Abbott said the state should begin funding distribution of Narcan, a drug that reverses and blocks the effects of opioids including fentanyl.

“The bottom line is, this is something we have to distribute across the state of Texas,” Abbott said. “We’ll need to look for the areas where fentanyl is found most predominantly and make sure Narcan is easily available there.”

Abbott said the drug should be given to law enforcement agencies, and must also be sent to some hospitals and schools.

The governor did not clarify how the drug distribution would be funded.

A federally funded state program called “More Narcan Please” that gives out the life-saving drug for free ran out of money in January, in part due to high demand.

He also called for new laws, including one that would designate fentanyl-related deaths as poisonings instead of overdoses. Another proposed law would allow prosecutors to charge a person with murder if they lace a drug that causes a drug overdose with fentanyl.

Abbott has made the influx of opioids across the southern border a hallmark issue during his reelection campaign. During one of Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke’s campaign events earlier this year, members of Abbott’s campaign team distributed empty fentanyl bottles to attendees. The labels on the bottles read “Beto Biden Open Border Crisis.”

O’Rourke hasn’t placed the fentanyl issue front and center on the campaign trail during his 2022 run for governor. But during his unsuccessful bid for president in 2020, he unveiled a plan to address the crisis by, among other initiatives, tackling the illegal importation of fentanyl and ensuring access to treatment.