Hot Sheet

Some first aid is on the way for Colorado’s opioid crisis

Author: Kara Mason - September 27, 2017 - Updated: September 27, 2017

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opioid abuse(iStock image / BackyardProduction)

In places across Colorado that have been hit hard by the opioid crisis there are few resources, especially for those who’ve served in the military and find themselves with a substance-abuse problem. This week the state learned it’ll get nearly $400,000 for veteran drug courts.

The Department of Justice grant is being awarded to the Colorado Judicial Department, which has just a handful of courts aimed at veterans with trauma spectrum disorders. That can range from PTSD to substance abuse or other mental health challenges.

Pueblo, among the worst for opioid addiction in the state, and El Paso County, with a heavy military presence, each have a veteran treatment court. And Denver’s drug court has a veteran’s track. Even so, resources for veterans with substance abuse problems can be limited.

“Over the past year-and-a-half, I have traveled across the 3rd Congressional District and heard the stories of families and individuals who have been impacted by the opioid epidemic that is sweeping our nation. All of these stories are heartbreaking, but especially heartbreaking are the stories about veterans who return home and feel they have no other option but to seek comfort in drugs or alcohol,” said 3rd Congressional U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in a statement, after learning of the grant award to Colorado.

Tipton’s district includes places such as Pueblo, where the veteran population nears 15,000 people in Pueblo County and has been highlighted as a hotspot for opioid addiction.

“Drug courts are an important path to recovery for many of these men and women, and I’m glad that Colorado has been awarded this funding to support and enhance the drug court program,” he said.

Veteran treatment courts received nearly half of the grant money the Justice Department awarded for opioid crisis-related programs across the nation, but they also further the department’s priority of “reducing crime by holding offenders accountable for their actions, and reducing victimization by intervening soon after arrest to prevent future crime.”

The DOJ awarded a total of $22.3 million to 53 jurisdictions for veteran drug courts, which the department describes as “‘one-stop-shops’ to link veterans with services, benefits and program providers, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Service Organizations and volunteer veteran mentors.”

Nearly one-fifth of veterans across the country have a substance abuse disorder, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, and it’s estimated one-third of veterans seeking help for substance abuse have PTSD.

Kara Mason

Kara Mason

Kara Mason covers southern Colorado, Aurora and statewide issues for ColoradoPolitics.com. She also writes for the Aurora Sentinel.