Marble Falls, Burnet, Kingsland, Llano, Spicewood, Horseshoe Bay, and ALL of the Highland Lakes
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Jeri and Reed Norman of Llano honored the memory of their son Aaron alongside other families impacted by the fentanyl epidemic during a bill-signing ceremony with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on June 14. Courtesy photo
To combat the growing fentanyl crisis in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott on June 14 signed into law four bills passed by the 88th Texas Legislature, including one that could lead to a murder conviction against the supplier if a person dies from using the drug.
Families impacted by the drug witnessed the signing at the Capitol in Austin. Among them were Jeri and Reed Norman of Llano, who lost their 28-year-old son Aaron to fentanyl poisoning in 2021.
“He was a great kid,” said Reed Norman, a former Marble Falls city councilor. “He loved golf and music … . One thing we knew but learned more about after his death was how giving to the community he was.”
In 2022, more than 2,000 people in the state died from fentanyl use, which averages out to over five deaths a day, according to a Governor’s Office media release. While the drug is often prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain, black-market manufacturers have capitalized on the substance in recent years for its highly potent, heroin-like effect on the human body. The synthetic opioid is up to 50 times stronger than heroine and 100 times stronger than morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The fentanyl epidemic has taken far too many innocent lives, but thanks to the work by brave parents and loved ones, like those here today, we have made Texans aware of this crisis,” Gov. Abbott said.
As Abbott inked the measures into law, Norman held a sign bearing his son’s photo and name. Looking around, he noticed an absence of fathers at the ceremony.
“A lot of the men didn’t go,” he said. “It was the women, the mommas. The daddies, they’re disconnected. I felt like I was a representation of the men’s side of the issue.”
HB 6 creates a criminal offense of murder for supplying fentanyl that results in death. The bill also enhances the criminal penalty for the manufacturing or delivery of fentanyl and requires deaths caused by the drug to be designated as fentanyl toxicity or fentanyl poisoning on death certificates.
“Today, (Aaron’s) death certificate says, ‘Cause of death: pending,’” Norman said. “Now, through this bill, it will say fentanyl poisoning. We’ll be able to go and get that changed. It will keep him his dignity.”
HOUSE BILL 3144
HB 3144 establishes October as Fentanyl Poisoning Awareness Month in Texas to increase awareness of the dangers of the deadly opioid.
“There is a critical need to increase awareness and expand education on the dangers of fentanyl in our schools,” said Jenna Mitchell, a student advocate against fentanyl, in the Governor’s Office release.
HOUSE BILL 3908
HB 3908, also known as Tucker’s Law, will require public schools each year to provide research-based instruction on fentanyl abuse prevention for students in grades 6-12.
“I am honored that Tucker’s Law is officially a law starting today that will provide education and resources to our students and parents across the state,” said Texas Against Fentanyl founder Stefanie Turner in the release. “While Tucker’s Law is named in honor of my son, it isn’t for my son. It’s for every living son and daughter across Texas.”
SENATE BILL 867
The final bill signed by Abbott, SB 867, allows the distribution of opioid antagonists, such as NARCAN, to Texas colleges and universities to prevent potential fentanyl poisonings.
“Fentanyl is a clandestine killer, and younger Texans, like me, are especially vulnerable,” Mitchell said. “Many students have never heard about fentanyl or its deadly effects.”
Norman hopes the combination of the four bills will have lasting effects on the battle against fentanyl and prevent future tragedies.
“Our government stood up and said they weren’t going to take this anymore,” he said. “I’m excited. My wife is excited about it. Our children are excited, too. Aaron’s death won’t be pushed under the rug, and it won’t be pushed under the rug for any of the rest of the victims either.”