Texas Attorney General Launches New Opioid Program: What It Doesn’t Address

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — They say football is king in Texas and now the attorney general’s office is using it as a way to combat the growing opioid crisis among young people here.

Flanked by former Texas pros and college football stars, AG Ken Paxton announced the pilot program titled “Friday Night Lights Against Opioids” on Wednesday afternoon.

Paxton says they will distribute more than 3.5 million home kits through high school football programs across the state between Oct. 27 and Dec. 17.

You can take them home and use them to destroy illegal or unused prescription drugs.

“Open it, pour the powder in the bottle, put water in it, shake it up and it destroys the opioids,” said Kenny Hansmire, executive director of the National Child ID Program, which is part of the coalition.

Hansmire said most pharmacies are now handing out these packets to people to destroy their leftover prescriptions.

Paxton said athletes, parents and community leaders will hand them out at games.

“We may have 10,000 fans in the stands…many of them may have an opioid problem at home, or they may have opioids that they need to destroy in the privacy of their home. It made a lot more of a difference to be able to hand them out in a match,” Hansmire said.

At the press conference, Paxton said funding for the program would come from the state’s opioid colonies, saying that so far his office has secured more than $2 billion.

Paxton said the coalition includes the Texas High School Coaches Association and will emphasize in-home drug education through public service announcements at games and by sending educational materials to over one million parents, guardians and students in the association’s network.

“I think that’s a problem with athletes, student-athletes at the high school and college level,” said Joe Martin, director of the Texas High School Coaches Association. “You get hurt, you get an injury, you get some kind of opioid to help you recover, you get some other, either abuse it or sell it. It’s been going on for a long time. »

Dr. CM Schade of the Texas Medical Association said that while it’s a great idea, there’s more to it.

“I hope the attorney general’s office will contact the TMA and consider our recommendations, which include legalizing fentanyl test strips and making over-the-counter naloxone,” said Schade, who is also the former President of Texas. Pain Society.

He said while they don’t have data on the number of children overdosing on prescription opioids – targeted by Paxton’s program – that’s only a portion of the population facing this epidemic. , which also includes those who accidentally receive mixed medications not expelled by a pharmacy.

Part of the TMA’s recommendations include more data collection.

“Explore these different populations, so you can target your responses and actions accordingly,” Schade said.

He also said that the educational aspect of the new program is essential.

” Knowledge is power. And that is very, very important,” he said.

Stefanie Turner agrees education is important – but says the AG’s new program completely fumbles the opioid solution.

“The fact that the initiative is about taking prescription drugs back, when that’s not what’s killing our kids, what’s killing our kids is illicit fentanyl that’s being sold on social media. And so , it’s not even a cure for the problem,” she said.

Turner raises awareness and educates students about fentanyl and advocates with school and state leaders for solutions.

This includes expanded access to naloxone and mandatory education in public schools about the drug problem.

“Honestly, I was completely pissed, disappointed, sad. And I felt defeated. I didn’t feel heard,” Turner said after hearing about the AG’s new program.

The impassioned plea comes after the loss of his own son, Tucker Roe, to the fentanyl crisis on September 23, 2021.

“My son bought a pill on Instagram that was marketed as the Percocet pill. And that pill cost him his life,” she said. “It’s been a tough year, losing a child is a pain that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”

Turner said Paxton missed more of the crowd by not targeting illicit drugs containing fentanyl.

“While I’m grateful to the AG office for realizing that children are the target, it’s a missed mark because it’s not prescription drugs that are killing our children,” she said. . “And so that’s a really missed opportunity for what the real issue is.”

She thinks Paxton’s new program is a slap in the face.

“If we don’t speak properly about the real dangers, how do we approach the problem?” she says. “It’s really disappointing. And I think any parent or anyone who has lost a loved one to fentanyl is outraged today. It’s a real punch for all of us.

“I think any parent or anyone who has lost a loved one to fentanyl is outraged today. It’s a real punch for all of us.

Stefanie Turner, lawyer who lost her son to a fentanyl overdose

KXAN contacted all school districts in central Texas. The handful who responded say they know nothing about this program, including AISD.

We are trying to better understand how many children are actually accessing and abusing the prescription opioids, which this new program targets, versus the number of children who are accidentally given mixed drugs that are not from a pharmacy.

This is part of a list of follow-up questions that KXAN sent to the GA office. We haven’t had a response yet.

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