Texas doctor who found son overdosed urges action on opioid crisis

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AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Lawmakers got an earful from doctors, veterans, mental health experts and child advocates on the need to combat substance use and abuse in Texas. Three hours of public testimony on Wednesday were last of the half-dozen hearings since May.

“Our family suffered the loss of our son, he was 21 years old,” Dr. Rudy Morales Urby said. “We lost him to this opioid crisis. So it’s a very personal issue for us, but it’s also a professional issue.”

Urby testified he found his son, Amado, overdosed in a bedroom at the family’s home, with a half-filled syringe and needles on his desk. He said he tried to resuscitate his son, but it was too late.

“My son was gone,” he told lawmakers. He said his son did not take advantage of insurance options available to him to access medical care.

“We had insurance, but many uninsured Texans can expect a life of misery of early death,” said Urby, a family physician in San Antonio. He is also a member of Texas Doctors for Social Responsibility.

Committee chair Four Price, R-Amarillo, said the panel was committed to finding meaningful solutions.

“Substance abuse and obviously the opioid crisis is an issue of great concern to many Texans,” Price said.

“Texas is not in as poor shape statistically as other states,” Price added. “We have an opportunity to get out in front of this problem, and we have the resources and tools to better manage that situation so we don’t end up like a West Virginia, Ohio or New Hampshire, with regard to opioid deaths and opioid-related overdoses.”

“I think we have covered this from front to back and every which way,” State Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, said at the conclusion of the panel’s sixth and final meeting.

State Rep. Joe Moody said the group, specifically Price’s staff, had been “amazing to start to make Texas a leader in changing the way we do things.”

Urby explained he hoped lawmakers would push for results when the next session starts in January, after the committee submits a report to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus by Nov. 1.

“This is a disease. We mustn’t continue to criminalize a disease,” Urby said. “It costs too much in terms of personal pain and anguish and economically and financially our state loses much by not doing what we need to do.”

Family physician Dr. Rudy Morales Urby testifies in the Texas House panel studying opioids & substance abuse on Aug. 8, 2018. His son, Amado, left, died at age 21 from a drug overdose. (Background: Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport, Foreground: Urby family)

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