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Colorado Edition: Combatting Colorado’s drug overdose epidemic; neglect and misconduct in tribal jails

The Surgeon General recommends more Americans carry naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote.
Jake Harper/Side Effects Public Media
The Surgeon General recommends more Americans carry naloxone, the opioid overdose antidote.

Last November, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that for the first time, drug overdose deaths topped 100,000 annually, across a period of 12 months ending in April 2021. According to the CDC, more than 102,000 Americans die of diabetes each year, and more 134,000 die from Alzheimer’s Disease.

A large portion of these overdose deaths are attributed to opioids. The CDC estimates approximately 75,000 of the deaths in that 12-month period were caused by opioids. In Colorado, the situation mirrors what public health experts are seeing across the country. According to state data, deaths due to fentanyl doubled in the first year of the pandemic to 452, from 214 the year prior. In 2020, 1,477 Coloradans died from drug overdose.

To understand local and statewide efforts to prevent overdoses, reduce harm and address underlying causes, we speak with Sam Bourdon, harm reduction grant coordinator with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. We also speak with Georgia Babatsikos, harm reduction manager with the Works Program in Boulder County, which for decades has provided services to reduce the risk of disease and overdose death.

A report commissioned by the Interior Department outlines serious problems at tribal jails. It follows a Mountain West News Bureau and NPR investigation that found neglect and misconduct led to deaths at the jails. KUNC’s Robyn Vincent spoke with relatives and advocates about the findings.

Colorado Edition is hosted by Erin O'Toole (@ErinOtoole1) and edited by Henry Zimmerman (@kombuchacowboy). Our production team includes Tess Novotny (@tess_novotny). Web was edited by digital operations manager Ashley Jefcoat.

The mission of Colorado Edition is to deepen understanding of life in Northern Colorado through authentic conversation and storytelling. It's available as a podcast on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayStitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

You can hear the show on KUNC, Monday through Friday at 2:30 and at 6:30 p.m.
Colorado Edition is made possible with support from our KUNC members. Thank you!

Our theme music was composed by Colorado musicians Briana Harris and Johnny Burroughs. Other music in the show by Blue Dot Sessions.

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