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In the last three decades, prescription pain pill addiction has become a serious medical crisis-turned-overdose crisis that has led to the premature deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans. In Arapahoe County alone, nearly 500 residents died last year after overdosing on painkilling drugs.
For the past seven years, Arapahoe County has been a leader in Colorado as an advocate for new policies that improve efforts that address the growing threat these deadly prescription drugs pose to our society. The County organized a prescription drug task force—which included the County Sheriff, Coroner, and the Tri-County Health Department (TCHD)--to determine how best to reduce drug overdose deaths, improve access to proven drug treatment programs, and improve law enforcement to eliminate the increasing black market for these substances.
The task force recommendations have led to improved public education and state funding for drug treatment clinics, and to better monitoring programs that find individuals who attempt to fraudulently or illegally seek prescriptions.
Recently, Arapahoe County commissioners Bill Holen and Jeff Baker showed their support for this cause at an event on Wednesday, August 28th in Westminster. Throughout this month, the Tri-County Overdose Prevention Partnership (TCOPP) has sponsored similar events in support of International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD), which is August 31st.
The theme of IOAD is “Time to Remember, Time to Act,” and among its educational goals is reducing the stigma around opioid addiction. This includes raising awareness that overdose and death from overdose are preventable, and that those suffering from addiction could be—and often are—people we know and love, not just anonymous troubled souls.
IOAD also teaches people to acknowledge how addiction exposes users' families and friends to grief and loss, on the fact that addiction is a chronic disease with genetic components that deserves compassion rather than condemnation, and on how addiction affects people from all walks of life. Despite all these thorny characteristics, the activists around IOAD continue to stress the hope and strength that drive the anti-opioid movement and people in recovery.
In his remarks at the Westminster event, Commissioner Holen spoke his own family's experience with this issue. " Having a nephew die of a prescription drug overdose brought home to me how many families are suffering from the results of this tragic epidemic of prescription drug addiction,” Commissioner Holen said. “Victory over this growing problem can only be solved by a concerted, collaborative effort by everyone. We can end this crisis through education, adequate funding for addiction treatment, and targeted law enforcement. Our families' lives are depending on us."
For more information about these efforts, visit the Tri-County Health Department or International Overdose Awareness Day.