News Release

Texas Health and Human Services Commission

Dr. Courtney N. Phillips
HHS Executive Commissioner
Date:January 30, 2020
Contact:
Kelli Weldon, 512-424-6951

Texas HHS Launches New Pilot Effort in Austin to Help Opioid Overdose Survivors

AUSTIN – Texas Health and Human Services is launching a new pilot program with Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service to help opioid overdose survivors quickly get treatment and services to support long-term recovery.

"Helping overdose survivors develop a plan for ongoing treatment and recovery will lower their risk for relapsing," said Sonja Gaines, HHS deputy executive commissioner for Intellectual and Developmental Disability and Behavioral Health Services. "We must end the cycle of repeat overdoses and support survivors in their recovery. With this pilot program, we're giving EMS and first responders the resources to link patients with follow up care, treatment and support to help them recover."

Through this innovative program, EMS opioid response teams will connect people to medication-assisted treatment, prevention education and peer recovery support. As part of the pilot, EMS responders also follow up with patients in their homes to assist with accessing these resources.

"EMS is uniquely situated to connect with and help people suffering from opioid use disorder, and support from the Texas Targeted Opioid Response will help increase the response capability of the Community Health Paramedic team and ensure the team has the resources necessary for continued success," said Blake Hardy, Austin-Travis County EMS Commander, Community Health Paramedic Team.

Travis County has among the highest rates of opioid-related deaths in Texas. Austin-Travis County EMS's Community Health Paramedic team launched its Opioid Emergency Response program in 2018 and plans to serve 300 people in the next year with the help of this new funding.

"Good health outcomes require services and treatment beyond the crisis point," said Sen. Kirk Watson. "This program begins to provide the continuum of care necessary for us to address opioid use disorder in our community and help our neighbors get healthy."

Over the past two years, Texas HHS has implemented the pilot program at three other sites in Bexar County, Harris County and Williamson County with Texas Targeted Opioid Response grant funding.

  • For the Harris County pilot, the program has prevented repeated overdoses. Of the 500 patients enrolled, 85 percent received medication-assisted treatment and were retained in treatment and recovery for more than 30 days. Over 5,000 units of naloxone were distributed and 23 percent of participants report an improvement in quality of life. 
  • Since April 2018, the Williamson County EMS opioid response teams have distributed 18,000 doses of life-saving naloxone throughout Texas, primarily to rural and suburban areas. In addition, teams conducted 53 overdose rescue classes for hundreds of participants throughout Texas, connected 94 patients to medical care, intensive case management, and peer recovery services, and resuscitated more than a 25 people with TTOR-funded naloxone.
  • In Bexar County, the opioid response team is a partnership between the UT Health San Antonio School of Nursing, San Antonio Fire Department's Mobile Integrated Health Unit, and San Antonio Council on Alcohol & Drug Awareness. The opioid response team has conducted 1,830 follow-up visits and engaged with 1,037 survivors of overdose. 261 overdose prevention kits containing naloxone have been distributed and 273 individuals are actively engaged with a peer recovery coach.

One of Texas HHS' goals in its inaugural business plan, Blueprint for a Healthy Texas, is to reduce negative health outcomes associated with opioid use through the use of medication assisted treatment.

These pilot efforts are part of the agency's work to combat opioid misuse through the TTOR initiative. Approximately $500,000 annually is allocated for each of the sites. TTOR encompasses four grant opportunities from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration totaling more than $176 million over funding periods through 2021.

More information about TTOR is available at https://hhs.texas.gov/sites/default/files/documents/laws-regulations/reports-presentations/2019/tx-targeted-opioid-response.pdf.

To learn more about opioid misuse prevention, go to the "Dose of Reality" website, a collaboration of the Texas Attorney General, Texas HHS and the Texas Department of State Health Services. Visit doseofreality.texas.gov.