The opioid abuse epidemic most definitely has the attention of the Colorado government. The legislature has introduced and passed six new bills this year to help combat the rise in overdose deaths from opioids, and five of them have already been signed by Governor John Hickenlooper.
While the bills have the goal of reversing the upward trend of opioid overdoses, experts caution that it will take time to do so. Rob Valuck, director of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Use Prevention, points out that many of those who are overdosing on opioids now probably started taking the drugs 12 to 15 years ago, so the problem is a deep-seated one that will not be fixed in a year.
Last year, 558 Coloradoans overdosed on opioids, preliminary data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment suggests. That is about half of all overdose deaths in Colorado, more than from any other type of drug. So how will the new laws help deal with the problem of opioid addiction?
Limiting Opioid Prescriptions
One of the new laws aims to prevent people from getting addicted to opioids in the first place and from getting access to other people’s leftover medications by limiting the number of opioid painkillers doctors can prescribe. Unused medications often end up in the hands of those who abuse opioids and feed the addiction.
Providing Treatment Medications
Another of the newly passed laws requires health plans to cover drugs that treat opioid dependence as well as drugs that reverse overdoses, such as naloxone. Pharmacies that dispense these drugs will get an “enhanced” fee under the new law as well.
Helping With Treatment Provider Shortages
Some areas of Colorado do not have enough treatment providers to handle the demand for substance abuse treatment, and another law aims to help by providing scholarships and student loan repayment for providers who agree to work in underserved areas for a certain period of time. Money from the marijuana tax in the state will fund these programs and hopefully improve access to treatment across the state.
Adding Treatment Options to Medical Assistance
Recognizing that many who abuse opioids need medical detox and inpatient treatment, one of the new laws adds these options to the state’s medical assistance program so that low-income residents can get the right treatment to address their addiction. It is estimated that every dollar spent on drug treatment saves about $12 in other costs to the state, such as medical care, court costs for criminal proceedings related to drug use, and incarceration on drug-related criminal activity.
The final bill signed by the governor commits the legislature to ongoing evaluation of how the laws are working and what else might be needed in the future. Substance abuse trends change often, and legislators want their laws and initiatives to best meet the needs of Colorado residents.
If you or a loved one suffers from opioid dependence or addiction, The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake can provide the Colorado addiction treatment you need to recover. Contact us today to get help!