From Prevention To Recovery, Colorado Lawmakers Advance Opioid Bills

Nov 6, 2019

A group of bipartisan lawmakers continues to combat Colorado's opioid crisis.

The Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee recently advanced five bills for the state legislature to consider in January.

Two of the bills address treatment. The first focuses on access and would require insurance carriers to provide coverage for substance use disorders in accordance with the American Society of Addiction Medicine. The second would provide medication-assisted treatment and other resources in the criminal justice system.

Democratic state Sen. Brittany Pettersen is the committee chair. She recently spoke to Colorado Edition about the five bills.

"It is critical that we change the face of what treatment looks like and how we see the people that are suffering, with a substance use disorder," Pettersen said. "It's a disease, it is treatable, we know what to do, we know what works, we just have to care enough to prioritize it and that is what we are working towards."

The committee has been focused on substance use disorder legislation for several years and, according to Pettersen, these bills continue to build off their previous work.

Another bill aims to increase the prevention of substance use disorder. This includes encouraging best practices in health care settings to prevent opioid misuse and increasing access to alternatives to opioids and education for opioid prescribers.

Harm reduction is the focus of the fourth bill. Part of the proposed legislation extends civil and criminal immunity for a person who acts in good faith to administer an opiate overdose reversal drug, like naloxone, that has expired.

The final bill seeks to increase access to recovery services by providing additional funding for housing and employment support services and community organizations.

Together, the five bills provide a comprehensive plan for the care of substance use disorders, Pettersen said.

"In order to ensure that we're actually utilizing our tax state payer dollars well, in setting people up for success, we need to meet them where they are and provide that continuum of care," she said.