AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The University of Texas at Austin is leading a new project that will, for the first time, give an in-depth look at overdoses across the state.
Until now, Texas has never had a widespread database to track overdoses.
Becky Stewart and Annie Hernandez both lost their sons to drugs.
“An autopsy was performed, and it came back as fentanyl poisoning,” Stewart said.
Hernandez said her son didn’t realize what exactly he was ingesting.
“He got one Xanax mixed with fentanyl, and he overdosed from that,” Hernandez said. “He didn’t realize that’s what he was getting.”
As they still live with the pain of those losses, they’re glad there’s finally a system that’ll track overdoses and even point out hotspots for bad batches of drugs across the state.
“It would most definitely help with a bigger picture of how bad of a problem this is,” Stewart said.
UT’s project is called “TxCOPE.” In its pilot phases, the team partnered with harm-reducing agencies. Those are groups that work with drug users to avoid overdoses.
So far, they’re working with harm-reduction agencies in Austin, San Antonio and El Paso.
Agencies will be asked to report things like when and where an overdose happened and the drugs involved.
TxCOPE said that’s important, because the agencies get information that doesn’t get officially reported. That helps them track data, identify hot spots and target outreach.
“Having this one central database that’s publicly available will allow all those different organizations to work together more cohesively towards this goal of saving lives,” Joseph Gorordo, with the addiction treatment center, Recovery Unplugged, said.
Gorordo does a lot of community outreach himself and hopes trends from TxCOPE data are analyzed.
Capitol Correspondent Jala Washington asked Hernandez if she feels TxCOPE data may have saved her son’s life.
“I think I would have been more aware of where he was living,” Hernandez said. “And, I would have been more in tune into what was happening around the state.”
This new system was made possible through federal grant funding, according to TxCOPE.
The general public can report overdoses through it, but right now, the system is really designed to receive reports from harm-reduction agencies.
It will officially launch on Sept. 1. TxCOPE is hoping to partner with hundreds of harm-reduction agencies across the state.
If you’re an agency that would like to get involved, you can email TxCOPE at firstname.lastname@example.org.