A bottle of naloxone.

Colorado has set aside $1.8 million in federal stimulus money for naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote, as the state battles a growing wave of drug deaths.

The money will be placed in the Naloxone Bulk Purchase Fund, a state-run program that allows local governments, law enforcement, school districts and certain private organizations to purchase the treatment. The money comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, one of the pandemic federal stimulus measures, the state Department of Public Health and Environment said Wednesday morning.

The agency said the "demand for naloxone exceeds funding currently available" through the fund. From January 2019 through December 2021, the health department "provided 98,314 doses of naloxone at no cost to 253 entities across the state."

Naloxone has become an increasingly important and base-level tool used by first responders and harm-reduction organizations — which also provide things like clean needles and fentanyl test strips — to slow overdose deaths. Many hospitals in Colorado now provide naloxone to patients in their emergency departments, thanks to a program started by Donald Stader, an emergency medicine physician at Swedish Medical Center.

Colorado officials project that the state surpassed 1,800 fatal overdoses in 2021, shattering the record it set in 2020. A steadily increasing share of those deaths were caused by fentanyl, a synthetic opioid increasingly present in a variety of substances, from heroin to methamphetamine to illicit pills.

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