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Lawmakers extend financial lifeline to Pueblo heroin crisis - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Lawmakers extend financial lifeline to Pueblo heroin crisis

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PUEBLO -

Your state government wants to tackle the issue of heroin addiction head on and they're going to start by providing more help to a community that could use it. Pueblo had the highest per capita heroin overdose death rate last year.  Drug overdoses claimed the lives of 38 people in 2016, 12 of them were due to heroin.

Lawmakers believe part of the solution is expanding the number of behavioral health professionals who can help addicts move out of their self destructive lifestyle. Senate Bill 74 comes up with the money to help do that. It was introduced by State Senator Leroy Garcia and Co-Sponsored in the house by State Rep. Daneya Esgar.

Both lawmakers lamented the lack of available healthcare providers in Pueblo for addicts in need of help.

"When you have addicts that are actually seeking treatment, to find out that they can't get in because there's just not enough people to do that treatment, that's an issue," Esgar said.

The bill sets aside $500,000 a year for the next three years to be awarded in the form of grants to enable providers to hire more nurse practitioners and physicians assistants.

"It will help serve as a pilot project for the State of Colorado which we hope to tackle the challenge that is crippling communities throughout the state," said Garcia.

Behavioral health experts at Parkview hospital tell us the money would be a godsend.

"For us, it would enhance our ability to provide prescribers to the community, right now we only have four," said Valerie Baughman, Interim Director of Behavioral Health at Parkview.

Withdrawal from opioid addiction is severe, often requiring the combination of both prescription medication and counseling for a successful outcome. 
Physicians Assistance and Nurse Practitioners can handle both tasks.

"Current behavioral health centers, current medical facility are able to apply for these grants to then use that money to help them train more nurse practitioners and to train more physician assistants to be able to do this treatment," Esgar explained.

The money will be distributed by the University of Colorado College of Nursing. The money is coming from the state marijuana excise taxes.

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