The Williamson County Commissioners Court approved folding funding for tactical teams and K9 units with the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office into the department’s general fund March 21, as undercover narcotics officers recently uncovered a new drug mixture containing fentanyl.

County Judge Bill Gravell said he is interested in every tool and resource the court can provide to the Sheriff’s Office to allow them to go directly after drug dealers.

“I want us to justly and fairly pursue those who desire to do damage in our community, and I want us to be swift,” he said. “I don’t want us to acquiesce; I want us to go after them hard.”

According to Sheriff Mike Gleason, an undercover officer recently made a purchase of a drug recognized by the department’s new narcotics scanner as containing fentanyl and xylazine.

On March 20, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a public safety alert, warning law enforcement agencies and others about an increase in the mixture being trafficked throughout the country. According to the DEA, the combination of xylazine and fentanyl increases the risk of fatal drug overdoses, because xylazine is not an opioid and Narcan does not reverse its effects.

“It’s in our community now, as we speak,” Gleason said.

Two separate measures approved by the court will allow the sheriff’s office to pay for the costs of SWAT team operations as well as K9 operations out of the department’s general fund in the 2023-24 budget year, in addition to future years. Gleason said the funding previously used to pay for these units, which came from seized assets, can now go to new technology and equipment for the department.

The Commissioners Court's action comes after the fentanyl-related death of a Georgetown ISD student in January. Since then, the district has continued its partnership with the sheriff’s office to provide students with education programs. This spring, members of the organized crime and narcotics unit have been conducting one-hour presentations during GISD’s physical education, health and athletic classes.

Melinda Brasher, GISD executive director of communications, said the district has not received any reports of additional fentanyl-related deaths among its students, adding she has “no doubt that fentanyl is impacting families in our community in a number of ways that we may not be aware of.”

“We’re fortunate to have partners like [the Georgetown Police Department] and WilCo [Sheriff’s Office] who are working alongside us in the effort to educate and protect,” she said. “It takes a village.”

In the meantime, local law enforcement and others have been increasing the availability of Narcan in Williamson County facilities. Also, Gleason said he has worked with state Rep. Terry Wilson, R-Georgetown, to develop legislation requiring middle and high schools to implement fentanyl-awareness curriculum. House Bill 3908 would have each school district provide a minimum of 10 hours of education on fentanyl annually.