Texas Legislature

Increased Fentanyl Overdose Deaths a ‘Wake Up Call' on Need for Action, Texas Lawmaker Says

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There is proposed legislation that would create a more effective way to track the prevalence of fentanyl overdoses, says a Texas lawmaker.

Texas state Rep. Stephanie Klick, R-North Richland Hills, said the bill will bring together different sources of data together.

“Right now, you’ve got local folks doing it. You’ve got state law enforcement, and you’ve got federal law enforcement,” Rep. Klick said. “We need it all in one place. But we also need to bring in the healthcare entities as well. They’re the ones seeing the people in the emergency rooms.”

Klick, chairwoman of the Texas House Committee on Public Health, hosted a town hall Friday night in North Richland Hills on the dangers fentanyl poses to students. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, is known to be 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine. It is often lethal with as little as two milligrams.

“I think the number of deaths last year doubling is a wake-up call that we need to do more,” Klick said.

Illegally manufactured fentanyl is often added to other substances like counterfeit pills, heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. As a result, many people may not know they're ingesting fentanyl, leading to accidental poisoning.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), 883 people in Texas died from fentanyl-related overdoses in 2020. Since 2020, Texas has experienced a 120% increase in fentanyl-related deaths, according to provisional data from DSHS. 

In February, district families learned three Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD students died and six more were hospitalized after taking Percocet and OxyContin pills laced with lethal doses of fentanyl.

At the town hall Friday night, North Richland Hills police chief Jimmy Purdue said fentanyl has not been identified in the school district so far this year.

However, Perdue said the synthetic drug is regularly encountered by officers in the community.

“Fentanyl is being placed in all sorts of drugs. Cartels, the different groups are saturating our public with fentanyl,” Perdue said.

Dionel Waters with IDEA Public Schools said the issue of fentanyl has not affected their Tarrant County schools yet.

“And I want to emphasize that word ‘yet’,” Waters said Friday.

Waters and other leaders urged parents who attended Friday to have open and honest conversations with their children about the dangers of fentanyl.

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