What happened at the recent Colorado Interim Opioid and Substance Abuse Disorder meeting

The most recent meeting of the Colorado Interim Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorder Study committee occurred yesterday, July 9th. The purpose of this meeting was to discuss upcoming deadlines, review past session legislation, and to update the committee and the public on various state agencies and programs currently in place. The entire meeting and the agenda can be listened to, and viewed here

The Colorado Interim Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorder Study committee will meet six times throughout the interim. The goal of the committee is to bring forward legislation to address policy gaps, and to better understand the components of the opioid crisis. 

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The meeting lasted 6 hours, and the room was full of health officials, state agencies, lobbyists, legislators, and public citizens. 

Senator Brittany Pettersen chairs the committee, and has taken specific focus on the opioid crisis in the state, running several bills over the past few sessions. During a review of legislation from the 2018 and 2019 sessions it became apparent that many bills that did not pass during 2018 were more successful this year. Supervised injection site legislation is one such example, despite the fact that lawmakers determined not to vote on the bill. 

Dr. Valuck, from the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention reviewed several bills. His presentation detailed the bills that were introduced, what category the bill falls under, whether the bill passed or not, and what the funding mechanism was. 

Bills discussed from 2018 include: HB 1003, SB 22, HB 1136, HB 1007, SB 27, and SB 40.

Bills discussed from 2019 include: SB 228, SB 40, SB 24. 

During a discussion of SB 228, a bill that creates a new set of prevention measures around the prescribing of opioids from the 2019 legislative session, Representative Perry Buck asked a question regarding the use and availability of overdose medication: 

“My frustration is that we have so many plans in place, we spend so much money but documenting what we are able to do, are we doing any type of documenting on how many are being passed out, and are we going to get any documentation on who is getting the naloxone?” she asked during the committee. 

While discussing this bill, Dr. Valuck spoke about the root-causes of opioid addiction, and the need for an increase in policies geared towards addressing the “medicine cabinet” issue. Dr. Valuck explained how many substance use disorders begin because the first prescription contains as many as 90 pills. The leftovers, he said, is what creates a pattern of addiction. SB 22 sought to address this issue. 

Next, the committee heard an update on State Agency Substance Use Disorder Programs. Several departments presented during this segment, where the focus was on the policy efforts that currently exist, some gaps that are evident, and what the state is working on for the future. A key for recovery is the funding of these different categories of care: treatment, education, prevention, pain management, emotional and behavioral health. 

“Between different state agencies …we made sure that across the continuum we have efforts that are going on at the individual level, the relationship level, community level, and society level…CDPHE tends to focus on upstream prevention,” Lindsey Myers from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment explained during this segment. 

Next the committee heard an update on the Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force from Jose Esquibel, Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention. He presented data to the committee, showing opioid trends in individual districts and explained that the results from the annual report and survey were now available. 

The survey demonstrated some key policy proposals —  mainly focused on education and prevention. A majority of respondents expressed interest in expanding treatment access, suggesting that future legislation may reflect this desire. 

Some takeaways from this section: discussion about resources for families, and a conversation about the need for additional comprehensive training programs across the state. 

The committee heard from a number of groups, and state agencies to discuss some of the approaches to prevention and treatment practices as well as the largest barriers preventing patients from receiving care. An important aspect of the presentation was a discussion amongst lawmakers regarding the need for understanding risk factors, and developing a treatment that addresses risk and prevention in conjunction. 

There are additional meetings throughout the interim. Bill drafts are due August 27th, the bill finalization process begins October 9th, and the votes for final bill drafts will occur on October 29th.