Public Health Response to the Opioid Crisis

Men and women suffering with pain trapped inside pill capsules.

Other Texas Opioid Resources

Looking for Substance Use Services in Texas?

Visit the Texas HHSC website for information on how to obtain substance use client services.

Dose of Reality: Prevent Prescription Painkiller Misuse in Texas

The Office of the Texas Attorney General, in partnership with HHSC and DSHS, has developed the Dose of Reality website to reduce prescription painkiller misuse and save lives.


The opioid crisis is a public health emergency. Almost half of all drug overdose deaths in Texas involve opioids. The impact of opioid addiction spans all generations and cuts across all socioeconomic lines.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) recognizes the need to address opioid misuse in Texas. Much of the work at DSHS centers around two strategies:

  • improving surveillance, and
  • expanding prevention through education and training.

These are two of the four strategies for preventing opioid misuse outlined by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO). Our efforts complement the efforts of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), as they also focus on implementing the strategies outlined by ASTHO.


Improve Monitoring and Surveillance of the Use and Health Effects of Prescription and Illicit Opioids

Texas Health Data

The Texas Health Data website provides statistical information on public health topics. With funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Texas Health Data is adding more opioid data and interactive maps to show the data at a local level. This data will help Texas target and evaluate prevention, intervention, and treatment efforts.

Texas Syndromic Surveillance

Syndromic surveillance uses health data in real time to look for early warning signs, so there is enough time to respond to a detected health crisis.

Thanks to funding from the CDC, DSHS is enhancing its syndromic surveillance system by collecting more data from hospitals, free-standing emergency centers, and urgent care providers. We are also including available data on opioids from EMS providers and poison control centers.

DSHS plans to hold a workshop to train staff in each of the eight public health regions on how to access and use opioid surveillance data from this system and from Texas Health Data. Once scheduled, you can register on the ASTHO website.

Controlled Substance Overdose Surveillance Enhancement

Texas law requires healthcare providers report overdoses involving controlled substances, including those due to opioids, opium derivatives, hallucinogenic substances, stimulants, depressants, and cannabimimetic agents. Funded by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, DSHS is improving how it collects these reports and uses surveillance data.

These enhancements will improve our ability to answer important questions about the distribution and causes of controlled substance overdoses in Texas. These answers will lead to strategies for drug overdose prevention and education.


Expand and Strengthen Evidence-Based Prevention and Education Strategies

Naloxone Overdose Education

Funded by the CDC, DSHS is increasing the number of regional and local public health staff trained on the use of naloxone. Naloxone is a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose.

Staff will also receive training on how to monitor local opioid use trends so they know where help is needed. Trained staff will then be able to train others to recognize opioid overdoses and respond with naloxone, saving lives in their communities.

Buprenorphine Waiver Training

Buprenorphine is a medication used to help treat people diagnosed with opioid use disorder. To prescribe buprenorphine in an office setting, providers must have a waiver from the national Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Right now, there are not enough doctors and other healthcare providers with this waiver to meet the need. Using CDC funds, the goal is to increase the number of physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants in Texas who have completed the required training, so that more can get this waiver and help people recover from opioid addiction.

Maternal Opioid Misuse Prevention

When left untreated, opioid misuse can cause serious medical complications and can even be fatal for mothers during or after pregnancy. Opioid misuse during pregnancy is also associated with low birth weight, premature delivery, and fetal death.

As part of the TexasAIM initiative, DSHS teamed up with the Alliance for Innovation on Maternal Health (AIM) and the Texas Hospital Association. The goal is to establish safety guidelines in hospitals for recognizing opioid misuse, and enhancing care for women with opioid use disorder, during and after pregnancy.

Last updated March 4, 2019