PRIORITY

Addressing the Opioid Epidemic

The Opioid Crisis is a national epidemic that, like other public health epidemics, has no one-size-fits-all solution. We need to invest in prevention, treatment, and access to lifesaving drugs.

The opioid crisis is a public health epidemic, hurting both our urban and rural communities. The increase in fentanyl use is particularly alarming, which has caused a large spike in overdose deaths, particularly for our communities of color. [1] As with every public health epidemic, there are no one-size-fits-all solutions, but we must address the lack of best practices for pain management and hold the large pharmaceutical companies responsible for their role in this national crisis. The odds of dying of an accidental overdose now exceed odds of a fatal traffic accident and the CDC has reported drops in life expectancy due to drug overdoses and suicides. [2]

John Hickenlooper was one of the first governors in the country to try to address the rise in prescription opioid abuse and overdoses. [3] He expanded the state’s prescription drug monitoring program and limited the number of opioid pills a doctor can prescribe to a new patient. [4] He also created a grant pilot program to train medical professionals in rural areas hit hardest by the crisis, [5] permanently established Colorado’s medication take-back program, [6] and joined in a national compact with other states to reduce inappropriate opioid prescribing. [6] These efforts led to a 21% drop in opioid prescriptions since 2013 and reduced opioid use in emergency departments by 36%. [8] Colorado experienced a decline in opioid-related overdose deaths from 2014 to 2015, but following national trends, opioid deaths rose in 2016, further cementing the need for continued efforts. [9]

As President, John Hickenlooper’s national strategy to address this crisis will involve partnering with states and communities across the country. His plan will also work to change the culture around prescription opioids.

Key components of his plan include:

  • National prescription drug take-back and disposal program 
  • Expanding national awareness campaigns about the risk of addiction 
  • Expanded training and promotion of best practices related to pain management for providers 
  • Codify a ban on advertising addictive opioid painkillers 
  • Requiring Medicaid, Medicare, Tricare, and private insurers to cover additional services including inpatient mental health and addiction care 
  • Creation of a grant program for the training of first responders to deal with overdoses and an expansion of funding to provide them with the lifesaving drug Naloxone 
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