A bipartisan committee in Colorado has approved six bills aimed at assisting the fight against opioid abuse and overdoses. The bills will be considered during the next legislative session in January. The Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Interim Study Committee met for four months to consider recommendations and found broad support in a community that has seen the rate of overdoses double since 2000, largely due to prescription opioids and heroin.
Bills Aim to Address Opioid Abuse
Four of the bills passed the committee unanimously. One of them would provide new state grants to conduct substance abuse screening, refer those needing help to treatment facilities, and create ongoing training for prescribers about the risks of pain medication. Another bill would create a safe injection facility under a pilot program; a third facilitates loan forgiveness and scholarships for professionals in jobs that fight substance abuse in underserved areas; and a fourth would add funding for residential and inpatient substance abuse disorder treatment programs to Colorado’s medical assistance program, which could cost the state up to $48 million, according to early estimates.
The final two bills passed the committee with one legislator, Rep. Perry Buck, voting against them. One would limit prescriptions for opioids to seven days, and one would require insurance companies to pay for medication-assisted treatment for substance abuse as part of their coverage.
Buck said she voted against those bills because they could interfere with doctors’ ability to treat their patients as they think is best. “I don’t think I want to get between a patient and a doctor,” Buck said in The Coloradoan. “That relationship is sacred ground. I don’t have a medical expertise; I don’t know the needs of the patient.”
“We Still Have a Lot of Work to Do”
The committee will continue to meet for two more years and consider recommendations, including the possibility of tougher criminal penalties for certain drug offenses.
“We’ve laid the framework, but we still have a lot of work to do,” said state Rep. Brittany Pettersen, the committee chairwoman, whose mother has struggled with opioid addiction. “I had no idea how broken our system was until my mom was begging for help and there were no options available for her.”
President Donald Trump declared the opioid crisis a national emergency in October, but federal funding for any new legislative efforts has to originate in the House of Representatives, according to the U.S. Constitution. States can enact legislation and appropriate funding independently of any federal initiatives, as Colorado seeks to do.
Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is a Colorado drug rehab facility that offers treatment programs for those with opioid and other substance abuse disorders. Recovery Village treats the whole person, providing a customized treatment plan and offering treatment for all co-occurring disorders including personality disorders, nicotine use, and contributing conditions like depression and anxiety. Learn about admissions to Recovery Village for help with an opioid or substance abuse disorder.