Drug-related death is a state-wide epidemic that will spread if citizens don’t work to resolve it, according to Mary Steiner, community program manager, Colorado Health Partnerships.
During a Feb. 20 lecture at Peak View Behavioral Health, Steiner talked about this epidemic and of the available educational resources that can aid in its prevention. Titled, “Opioid Misuse and Heroin Use in El Paso County: Scope and Impact of the Problem,” the lecture focused on helping citizens understand the scope of misuse and consequences of failing to take action.
Opioids are pain-reducing drugs that include medications derived from opioids such as codeine and morphine. Synthetic medications, such as fentanyl, suboxone, oxycodone and methadone also figure in these drugs. Heroin is a morphine-synthesized opioid.
“People tend to think opioid crisis is restricted to the homeless, but it’s not and (it) is branching out,” Steiner said.
According to Steiner, the year 2017 saw drug overdose claim 1,012 lives in Colorado, a record high for the state, and 100 more deaths than in 2016. El Paso County saw 102 opioid-related overdose deaths out of a total of 169 drug overdoses.
“The opioid crisis started with pharmaceutical companies and over-prescribing medications. Opioids are highly addictive and a lot of people are dying unnecessarily,” Steiner said.
According to the Colorado Health Institute, drug-related deaths are killing more Coloradans than ever. In 2016, El Paso County led the state with 141 fatal drug overdoses, followed by Denver County with 138. Despite the rise of overdose deaths in EPC, there is limited access to treatment and few opportunities for education.
Colorado Health Partnerships, which exists to change the trajectory of opioid addiction and substance abuse in the Pikes Peak region, formed the Coalition for Prevention, Addiction Education and Recovery to address EPC’s prescription drug/opioid epidemic and identify potential solutions.
Some of CPAR’s successes include:
• Distributing more than 1,300 educational materials relating to safe use of prescription medication, and safe storage, disposal and proper use of the overdose reversal drug Naloxone.
• Conducting Provider Education events to reduce over-prescribing opioids at hospitals, health clinics and private practices.
• Supporting distributing Naloxone (Narcan) to high-rate overdose death populations.
• Presenting new state/local substance abuse data to community leaders.
• Advocating for more prescription medication drop boxes in Colorado Springs to encourage safe disposal and mitigate diversion or misuse of opioid prescriptions.
“Overdose in EPC took the lives of 169 residents in 2017. That year, there were 21 deaths for every 100,000 people in the county, more than four deaths per 100,000 above the state average,” Steiner said.
Pikes View Behavioral Health, located at 7353 Sisters Grove, has programs that focus on treating and supporting adults age 18 who are struggling with substance abuse addiction. The detox program is designed to support those who struggle with the misuse of substances such as alcohol, opioids, heroin, and other addicting drugs.
“The detox program will allow patients to withdrawal in a safe, judgement free space, offering 24-hour medical supervision,” said Business Development Director Eric Gibbs.
“Peak View’s new substance abuse outpatient program will allow for a greater continuum of care for individuals seeking relapse prevention and preventative care or for those needing support after detoxification.”
Chief Executive Officer Ty Meredith said the new Chemical Dependency Outpatient Program allows PVBH to provide professional support to those struggling with addiction. “PVBH is committed to serving our Colorado communities and working collaboratively to help people achieve wellness,” Meredith said.
PVBH serves children ages 9 and up for behavioral health, and adults ages 18 and up for substance abuse and addiction. The facility is open for admissions seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Assessments are conducted by clinicians free of charge and can be scheduled by anyone requiring assistance. Physician referrals are not required in order to receive an assessment.
“Some people think the opioid crisis isn’t in their backyard. However, it is in everyone’s backyard and will continue to rise if we don’t act,” Steiner said.