Operation Naloxone, an initiative addressing the opioid crisis through overdose prevention training and supplying resources, has received a $1 million dollar grant from the Texas Human and Health Services Commission, or THHSC.
The project started as a resolution by Student Government in the summer of 2016 to provide naloxone, a drug used to treat narcotic overdoses in emergency situations, to different areas of campus.
Additionally, the initiative now works to increase access to treatment and reduce overdose-related deaths through preventative training. The training informs participants on a basic understanding of the opioid crisis, signs and symptoms of an overdose and other risk factors of using different prescription drugs director of the initiative Lucas Hill said.
“In Austin, it was mostly student groups to begin with,” Hill said. “But now we’ve expanded to include community groups, organizations that work with people who are at risk for overdose and drug treatment programs.”
Through the THHSC grant, the initiative is working to expand their influence throughout the state.
“Now with the grant, we’re enabled to go state-wide with the project and to collaborate with the Texas Overdose Naloxone Initiative, which was already providing some training throughout the state with support from the THHSC,” Hill said.
In Texas, which ranks second nationally for the number of people who meet criteria for dependence or abuse of heroin or pain relievers who have not received any treatment, drug deaths related to heroin and other opioids from 1999 to 2014 has risen by 293 percent, according to the School of Social Work’s Operation Naloxone Expansion research.
However, Hill said he sees progress toward the treatment of the opioid crisis as a whole.
“We’re fighting against a long history of patients with substance abuse disorders being among the most marginalized groups in society,” Hill said. “With health care providers having significant implicit bias against them and politicians having limited incentive to help them.”
Lubna Mazin, student director for Operation Naloxone, thinks opioid overdose is a significant problem within the UT community.
“With a rise of the epidemic, we have seen a rise in college students overdosing and a younger population leaning towards prescription drugs,” graduate pharmacy student Mazin said. “Things can go wrong very quickly, and they don’t know how to handle that.
Government junior Daniel Brown said even though certain states are addressing opioid overdose better than others, the federal government is not taking substantial action to actually tackle the issue.
“In states where (naloxone) is sold over the counter, it’s shown a decrease in overdose (significantly),” Brown said. “Every state should be doing this, the federal government should be mandating it.”