County Reports on Drug Use and Poverty

New studies and what they mean for Austin

Pre-filled syringe of naloxone HCl preparation, single dose vial for intravenous, intramuscular, or intranasal administration (Photo by Mark Oniffrey / CC BY-SA 3.0)

... On Drug Use and Casualties

In a report released last month by Austin Public Health, researchers report an upward trend in both "all drug" overdose deaths in Travis County, and more specifically in deaths from opioid overdose. Although the local rate of prescriptions for opioids (51.2 per 100 persons) remains lower than both the state rate (57.6) and national rate (66.5), APH reports that from 2006 to 2016, 1,398 Travis County residents died due to drug overdoses, an average of 127 each year. Of those deaths, 590 (42.2%) were due to opioid overdoses – 91% unintentional, 7% suicidal.

The report also notes that the rate of overdose deaths among males (6.4/100,000) is twice that of females, and that the opioid overdose death rate among whites (6.8/100,000) is more than twice that of blacks and more than 2.5 times that of Hispanics. For a sense of the ongoing scale, from 2000 through 2017 there were 3,600 calls from Travis County to the Texas Poison Center Network for exposure to opioids – an average of 200 calls each year, 27% involving children (ages 0-19).

Dr. Philip Huang, medical director and health authority for Austin Public Health, said the data merits recommending expanding access "to evidence-based substance abuse treatment, expanding access and use of naloxone (a safe antidote to reverse opioid overdoses), and improving prescription drug monitoring."

Pie chart reflects basic percentages of poverty by income. (Courtesy of Travis County)

... On Poverty

An April report from Travis County Health and Human Services – "Travis County Poverty Brief" – provides an update of last year's "Focus on Poverty in Travis County." Using data derived from the American Community Survey Five-Year Estimates (based on annual community surveys), the report concludes that the county's current poverty rate is 15% – meaning roughly 171,000 people living under 100% of the poverty line: an annual income of $12,486 for one person, or $24,339 for a family of four (two children under 18).

The report also cites the number of people under 200% of the poverty line ($24,972/$48,678), defined as enduring "economic hardship" and as a group eligible for many social service programs. Another 16% (184,851 people) are included in that second group, together reflecting about 32% of Travis County residents in substantial financial difficulty much of the time.

Geographically, poverty is primarily concentrated in the central and eastern areas of Travis County, along the I-35 corridor and east of I-35, whereas the majority of ZIP code tabulation areas on the western side of the county have rates below 32%. A few other details: The county poverty rate is lowest among non-Hispanic whites (9%), highest among Hispanic/Latino residents (24%), 22% among African-Americans. The rate is higher among females (16%) than males (14%); among age groups, the highest rate is among people 18-24 years of age (35%), lowest among those 65 and over (8%). The rate for children under 18 is 21%. The overall poverty rate for the county, for the five-year period 2012-2016, has declined slightly from the previous five-year period.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More poverty
Point Austin: Tools for Lege Watching
Point Austin: Tools for Lege Watching
Considering Texas' future – a few things to keep in mind

Michael King, Dec. 14, 2012

Letters at 3am: Somehow It Gets to Be Tomorrow
Letters at 3am: Somehow It Gets to Be Tomorrow
For many American families, one salary is not enough to keep everyone in the household fed

Michael Ventura, Feb. 26, 2010

More by Michael King
Family and Friends Honor Activist/Writer Nadine Eckhardt
Farewell Nadine Eckhardt
Farewell to the Duchess of Palms

Jan. 14, 2019

Van Boven Fallout Continues
Van Boven Fallout Continues
While appeals proceed, Baylor professor campaigns to save SOAH

Jan. 10, 2019


Austin Public Health, Travis County Health and Human Services, opioids, poverty

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle