There is an opioid crisis in Colorado and across the nation. Colorado, and especially southern Colorado, has seen an increase in use and abuse of opioids. Traditionally, when we hear the word opioid we think of the “junkie,” but that’s not where it ends or begins.
With the rise in use and abuse, we see a rise in crime and opioid-related deaths. The use and abuse can be attributed to many things including cost, over prescribing and especially mental illness. As with other drugs that are abused, there are all of the negatives that follow, and our communities are seeing it firsthand. Our law enforcement agencies are overwhelmed, our hospitals must cope and we see a rise in crime rates. All of which beg the question, “What is being done?”
I am so pleased that the conversations on this issue are finally being had, it’s an issue that impacts us all, and that conversation is finally occurring in a bipartisan fashion at the Colorado state Capitol this legislative session. It’s meaningful and is some of the good work that is being done on behalf of the people of Colorado in a way that will make a difference.
I’m thankful to Rep. Daneya Esgar and Sen. Leroy Garcia for Senate Bill 17-074. This bill creates the medication-assisted treatment (MAT) expansion pilot program, administered by the University of Colorado College of Nursing. The pilot program will provide grants to community and office based practices, behavioral health organizations and substance abuse treatment organizations. So when you hear of partisan bickering at the Capitol, rest assured, your Pueblo delegation can and will come together when and where we can have a positive impact on issues like opioid abuse in southern Colorado, and especially in Pueblo County.
Of course, there is a cost associated with this type of program, and it’s not cheap, but what price do we place on the health and safety of our communities? The financing for this pilot program will come from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund, and while there is no data that I’ve seen that definitively states the legalization of marijuana in Colorado has caused the rise in opioid abuse, this seems like the perfect place to take dollars from to fund such a pilot program. Treatment beats incarceration where costs are concerned, and the taxpayer of Colorado can and will benefit from this legislation. I’m especially pleased that this strategy will address mental illness, an issue dear to my heart.
So while we may battle about the budget or the size of government, we come together when it matters, and I for one will be signing on as a co-sponsor of this legislation, and I thank my colleagues for their thorough and thoughtful presentation of this bill. There are a few other bills that seek to curve opioid abuse, but this bill really hits at the heart of the matter. Treatment works, and when it works well, we see a stronger and healthier community, and that is what we are all looking for. Thank you, Rep. Esgar and Sen. Garcia. I stand with you on this legislation, and I look forward to its passage and signing by our governor. This, quite simply, is good work that offers a solution that we can all agree upon.