Colorado and local cities and counties are suing opioid manufacturers and distributors. The lawsuits are part of larger, national litigations which are still pending. While thousands of plaintiffs wait for a decision, a local nonpartisan health policy organization posed this question:
With a hypothetical $100 million settlement, how would you combat Colorado's opioid crisis?
The Colorado Health Institute (CHI) surveyed dozens of experts working in health and public health, intervention and recovery, local and state governments, and law enforcement. They were asked how much of the funds should be allotted across five areas: treatment and recovery, prevention, criminal justice, harm reduction, and other.
The results of the survey were compiled into a report to prepare local and state leaders to quickly and effectively put any anticipated settlement money to use. It will serve as a guide to help them make the best decisions for their communities.
The "Colorado Opioid Crisis Response Blueprint: A Guide for Opioid Settlement Investments" was presented at CHI's 2019 Hot Issues in Health conference. The survey revealed consensus among the four groups as to how the money should be spent. They all recommended the largest portion of the settlement money to go to treatment and recovery.
"It kind of makes sense, right? If this is the opioid crisis and you're suing people that arguably led to people becoming addicted," said Robert Valuck, professor of pharmacy at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and director of the Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention. The center oversees the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention which collaborated on the blueprint. "We'll use the money to help those people that became addicted to get better."
The next two highest funding priorities were prevention and criminal justice, essentially tied, followed by harm reduction. Very little money was allocated for other efforts.
The consensus among these groups, said Valuck, reflects the collaborative environment around tackling the opioid crisis that has already been established in Colorado.
"I think it reflects a lot of those conversations and joint efforts that have already been happening," he continued. "So, it's not like a million different people off doing a million different things. It really is that we've been working with a lot of folks all over the state and across these different sectors."