Peter MarcusPeter MarcusJuly 10, 20175min351

In rural Colorado Republicans and Democrats could find common ground on the campaign trail over opioid abuse, which has plagued parts of the state.

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, and a Democratic challenger, state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, are both highlighting the issue in the 3rd Congressional District.

Tipton on Friday announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is providing $195 million in new federal funding for health centers to increase access to mental health and substance abuse services.

Health centers can apply for the grants to help fight opioid abuse and provide services to individuals and families impacted by mental illness. Tipton’s office is assisting health centers and groups interested in applying for the grants.

“The number one thing I hear in communities that have been impacted by the opioid epidemic is that they need more resources to increase access to both substance abuse treatment and mental health services,” Tipton said. “Colorado’s health care providers are some of the most dedicated in the country, and additional resources will further support their efforts to fight opioid abuse and address mental illness in our communities.”

Tipton is facing a challenge from Mitsch Bush, who recently launched her campaign in the sprawling southern and western Colorado district.

The district swings between Republicans and Democrats, though it currently favors a Republican candidate. Tipton, in his fourth term, fought off a spirited challenge last year by former state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Gunnison County, defeating Scwartz by nearly 15 points.

More than a third of the district is comprised of unaffiliated voters, which means tens of thousands of votes are potentially up in the air. Fighting opioid abuse is a bipartisan subject that could provide similar messaging from Republicans and Democrats on the campaign trail.

Mitsch Bush said the $195 million in nationwide funding is barely a start and that members of Congress should be fighting harder on the issue.

“That’s spitting in the ocean. It’s better than zero, but $195 million, you’ve got to be kidding me,” Mitsch Bush said.

The grants are expected to be awarded in September. The Health Center Program funds providers in underserved areas, about 1,400 community health centers providing care to more than 24 million people. There are 20 Community Health Centers in Colorado.

The new funding could help heath centers add employees and invest in technology to help expand access to care for mental health and substance abuse services.

In May, HHS announced over $70 million to help communities and health care providers prevent opioid overdose deaths and provide treatment for opioid use disorder, of which $28 million will be dedicated for medication-assisted treatment.

A separate recent grant announced by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy made $3 million available to expand opioid-related health care services in rural communities.

Opioid abuse could also be one of the few things that unites some Republicans and Democrats as negotiations over the U.S. Senate’s health care bill continue. The controversial measure would provide states with $2 billion to address opioids in 2018. But some Republicans are joining with Democrats to call for the fund to go up to $45 billion over the next decade.

In Colorado, overdose deaths from prescription opioids dropped between 2015 and 2016, but the state continues to grapple with an increase in heroin overdoses. And Colorado remains a leader in prescription drug abuse. Some studies have placed Colorado second in the nation for prescription opioid abuse.

With the annual cost of the nationwide opioid epidemic estimated at more than $78 billion, Mitsch Bush says Congress should act with grater urgency.

“In order to tackle opioid abuse problems, opioid addiction problems, we need to tackle the larger issue as well,” Mitsch Bush said. “Until it becomes recognized as the way we do business, to have mental health and substance abuse out of parity with physical heath, we’re going to have these bits of money like this provided here and there, but we’re not going to have a sustainable source of funding.”


Adam McCoyAdam McCoyApril 30, 20175min335

Colorado will receive $7.8 million in federal grant money to help battle opioid abuse in the state, as part of a landmark medical research bill signed late last year. The 21st Century Cures Act, signed into law late last year, boosted funding for medical research and accelerated the development and approval process of medical treatments. The act promised some $1 billion in federal funding to help battle the opioid abuse epidemic across the country.


Clarice NavarroClarice NavarroApril 18, 20175min507

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?"


Mike McKibbinMike McKibbinMarch 13, 20176min320

In Case You Missed It: Read our weekly political news recap on the lesser known topics you may have missed last week in Colorado political journalism. Last week: It's always interesting — sometimes pretty fun, too — when someone takes is upon themselves to act as a citizen watchdog. One of the more well-known such people in Colorado politics is back in news ...


Mike McKibbinMike McKibbinMarch 5, 20175min391

If you ride your bike along busy streets or even highways, you're probably aware of what "rolling coal" means. For those who don't, a bill before state lawmakers may not matter, but those who do are pretty excited. The Colorado Independent reported the legislation would impose a $100 traffic fine on motorists who change their vehicles, usually either with an alternate tailpipe or smokestack, to blast exhaust smoke at another driver, bicyclist, motorcyclist, pedestrian or other human target as they pass by.


Tom RamstackTom RamstackOctober 19, 20168min330

Colorado U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton joined calls for better ways to halt or treat opioid addiction during a panel discussion at Colorado Mesa University Oct. 12. He spoke to CMU faculty and students in Grand Junction at the same time President Barack Obama is advocating for better treatment of drug addiction. "The good news is that awareness is starting to rise," Obama said during an MTV documentary last week on opioid addiction.