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Colorado Receives Grant To Combat Opioid, Meth Addictions

Mobile Health Unit
Stephanie Daniel
The State Opioid Response grant will help expand access to medication-assisted treatment, which is provided on six mobile health units that serve under- and uninsured residents in rural and frontier communities across Colorado.

The Department of Human Services' Office of Behavioral Health will receive $41.6 million over the next two years from the State Opioid Response grant. The state has been awarded this grant since 2017 to combat opioid use disorders. But this grant cycle expands the focus to include methamphetamine and other stimulant use disorders.

Colorado will get $41.6 million over the next two years to bolster drug addiction resources.

The Department of Human Services' Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) will receive the funding from the State Opioid Response (SOR) grant, a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) program that provides states funding to address the opioid crisis.

Colorado has been awarded this grant since 2017 with the main goal of increasing access to medication-assisted treatment, a highly effective treatment for opioid use disorder that pairs therapy with anti-craving medications. But this grant cycle expands the focus.

Funding can now be allocated to address methamphetamine, cocaine and other stimulant use disorders which can’t be treated with medications like opioid addiction.

“It's going to be more traditional, you know, psychosocial therapies,” said Marc Condojani, director of adult treatment and recovery. “Many of those people may need residential treatment, so we wanted to put more money into that.”

In 2019, 612 people died due to opioids, including prescription pills and heroin, while methamphetamines (and other psychostimulants with abuse potential) accounted for 347 deaths. From 2000 to 2019, Colorado has re-coded 14,512 drug overdose deaths, according to state data.

The state plans to use some of the funding to support residential treatment for more than 400 Coloradans struggling with stimulant or opioid use disorders.

“Colorado is in an interesting position we have a serious opioid crisis going on. So, we certainly need and have been utilizing the funding they've been giving us,” Condojani said. “But we also have always had a stimulant issue and it has been growing in the last few years as it has nationally.”

Grant monies will also increase the number of recovery residences in the state. Acknowledging the economic downtown cause by the coronavirus pandemic, Condojani said, financial assistance will also be available to residents.

“We'll be able to pay for the first month rent for those people that might be struggling with employment but still need the support of a recovery setting to help them on the path of recovery,” he said.

In May 2018, the state launched Lift the Label, a state-run public awareness campaign that aims to remove the stigma and labels that prevent people with opioid addiction from accessing effective treatment. While it has been successful, OBH is currently working with a research firm to explore equity and diversity issues related to the campaign. The new funding will allow the department to implement the recommendations.

“We know that our campaign messages are doing a better job reaching some Coloradans over others. So, we are really making it a focus over the next year to expand our messaging, expand change our tactics,” said Elizabeth Owens, director of policy and communications. “Whatever is needed to reach diverse Coloradans and all Coloradans who may need treatment for opioid use disorder.”

OBH will receive $20.8 million per year beginning on Sept. 30, 2020. The grant will also be used for several other initiatives including increasing access to medication-assisted treatment, purchasing and distributing 24,000 kits of the opioid overdose reversal drug naloxone, partnering with recovery community organizations and collaborating with the Colorado Hospital Association and CU Practice Innovation Center to help providers treat pain without the use of opioids.

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