Colorado lawmakers wasted little time working on the next steps to combating the state’s drug abuse crisis, announcing a special study commission this week. Ten members were named the Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Interim Study Committee to find more solutions.
The committee is authorized to recommend up to six bills in the 2018 session, based on its findings.
Overdose deaths in Colorado have doubled since 2000, and the state has the second-highest rate of prescription drug abuse in the country, behind only Oregon.
“I’m looking forward to working on this committee to help address the issues Colorado, especially Southern Colorado, is facing regarding opioid and other substance abuse disorders,” said Rep. Clarice Navarro, R-Pueblo, a member of the committee. “I’ve seen firsthand what this is doing to our communities in Fremont, Otero and Pueblo counties, and I know we can do more to ensure safe communities for our family, friends and neighbors.”
House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, said he appointed Navarro to be “an impactful member” because her district has been hit hard by opioid addiction “that all of Colorado faces.”
The group will hear from all sorts of experts, agencies and organizations, as well as examine an array of data, including prevention, education and insurance coverage that could support treatment and recovery. They will examine the hurdles and gaps that get between addicts and recovery.
Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood, will chair the committee, and Sen. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs will co-chair. Other members are Reps Perry Buck, R-Windson; Chris Kennedy, D-Lakewood; and Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, with Sens. Irene Aguilar, D-Denver; Cheri Jahn, D-Arvada; Kevin Priola, R-Fort Morgan; and Jack Tate R=Centennial.
Last session lawmakers passed Senate Bill 193 to use $1 million of marijuana tax money for a substance abuse research center at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. They also passed Senate Bill 74 to create a pilot program marrying anti-addiction medication and therapy in Pueblo and Routt counties.
In addition, House Bill 1351 calls on the Department of Human Serves to study options under Medicaid for inpatient and residential recovery programs. Currently the state offers only four days of emergency treatment.
Outside the Capitol, the Colorado Hospital Association announced this week its launching an opioid safety pilot in eight hospitals and three freestanding emergency departments
The hospitals and emergency rooms will use new guidelines on reducing the use of opioids for pain treatment, while gathering data, establishing best practices and determine how well alternatives manage acute pain.
“Knowing how I was treating pain in the (emergency department) and the potential for addiction after discharge led my colleagues and I to seriously think about how we could reduce patient exposure to opioids, while at the same time improve pain management,” said Dr. Don Stader MD, a member of the Colorado chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians and chairman of its opioid task force.
While opioids address all types of pain, the alternatives developed by Stader and Swedish Medical Center pharmacist Rachael Duncan, focus on specific kinds of pain and their root causes. In other being sick no longer necessarily comes with the bonus of getting stoned off the medication.
The hospitals are Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Boulder Community Health and Community Medical Center Emergency Room, Gunnison Valley Health, Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland and UCHealth-Greeley Emergency and Surgery Center, Poudre Valley Hospital & UCHealth Emergency Room-Harmony in Fort Collins, Sedgwick County Health Center in Julesburg, Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree and Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs.