Texas blows bid for funds to combat opioids, tries to keep records secret

Faced with a rising death toll from opioid abuse, Texas public health officials in May decided to apply for a $1 million federal grant to purchase Naloxone, a drug that, if administered during an overdose, can save the life of a person addicted to heroin or pain pills.

The Texas Department of State Health Services hired an outside grant writer to begin drafting a proposal, which was due at the end of the month. As the deadline drew closer, outside researchers and public health workers were brought in to help. If the grant was approved, community health workers and first responders hoped to have the Naloxone on hand by year’s end, courtesy of funding by the Obama administration.

But state officials never submitted the application. Researchers and advocates who contributed to the grant process said they were surprised to learn their work was for naught. They said state officials never offered them an explanation for why the grant was not pursued.

Now, the public health agency is going to unusual lengths to keep the public from seeing government records related to the grant. In response to a public information request filed by The Texas Tribune, the Texas Attorney General’s office told the health agency in September that records about the aborted grant application are public under Texas law.