Report: Drug deaths skyrocket for Texas women

New report shows need for combatting rising numbers

Since 2016, drug deaths among Texas females ages 15-44 have increased 36 percent.
Since 2016, drug deaths among Texas females ages 15-44 have increased 36 percent.

Since 2016, drug deaths among Texas females ages 15-44 have increased by 36%, according to one of the significant findings of the new American Health Rankings 2019 Health of Women and Children Report.

“I’m a recovering heroin and cocaine addict. I had lost custody of my children. Alpha Home was pretty much the last house on the block for me,” said Liddia George.

George lived at Alpha Home’s in-patient house for women while dealing with substance abuse. She got clean and came full circle. Now, she’s a licensed chemical dependency counselor for Alpha Home.

“I have a relationship with my children, grandchildren. I never could have imagined having the life I live today,” George said.

She weathered the storm, but she said she knows many who haven’t. “I’ve had a lot of clients either overdose or commit suicide. I’ve had a lot of losses that were very personal,” George said.

George is saddened, but not surprised, by the increase of drug deaths shown in the new report.

"Just because of the different substances people are using now, the potency and just the synergistic effects, a lot of people are mixing drugs, and that's having a lethal effect," said Rachel Daley, clinical director at Alpha Home.

Daley said San Antonio is making great changes in recovery support and Narcan availability, but more needs to be done.

“Finding adequate housing, medical care, employment — those are always things we need to address with clients,” Daley said.

Some of the gaps in recovery have to do with access and affordability, George said.

“I know there’s help available, but there’s a lot of treatment centers that are very expensive, so there’s not a lot of people who can afford the help,” George said.

Her other suggestion is a bigger push to both reduce the stigma of substance abuse and educate the community about available resources.

“The women sometimes just don’t know there’s help available,” George said. "It’s an issue that is everyone’s responsibility."

Daley said Alpha Home works especially well because it groups addicts by gender.

“The research shows that having gender-specific programming gets you better outcomes. Our residential is only women. We have a women’s outpatient program. We also have some men’s programs, as well, in the outpatient, but they’re completely separate and we have better outcomes that way,” she said.

Staff member and future counselor Gregory Pittman said he sees that working firsthand as he sits in on counseling sessions at Alpha Home.

"I see a woman get empowered here and start making the right choices. It's inspiring," he said.

Pittman said that type of environment creates a community of women who stick around to help each other, just like George.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.