A bipartisan group of Colorado lawmakers on Tuesday introduced five bills for the 2018 legislative session aimed at addressing the growing opioid epidemic in Colorado. “42 Coloradans per day died from opioid overdoses in 2016,” said Dr. Rob Valuck, Director of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention. Valuck was among the featured speakers at a press conference Tuesday at the State Capitol in Denver.
Another speaker, Stacy Pettersen, recounted her decades-long addiction to prescription drugs and heroin after initially being prescribed opioid painkillers for back pain 30 years ago. “I went from being a dedicated, loving mother of four with a career I loved to someone whose life became focused on feeding my addiction at the expense of everything else,” Pettersen said. Pettersen, who has now been sober for seven months, was able to benefit from the advocacy of her daughter, Rep. Brittany Pettersen (D-Lakewood), one of the lawmakers behind the bills. Thousands across Colorado, however, do not have someone so influential to act directly on their behalf on the road to recovery.
The five bills cover a range of issues related to the opioid epidemic, including prevention and education, clinical practice, workforce development, payment reform, and Medicaid coverage for inpatient substance abuse treatment. “We’re finding ways to cut the red tape in our medical system so people can get the help when they need it,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer (D-Longmont). “These bills are going to find a way to help heal our individuals in our state and set this tone for the whole nation so we can solve this crisis once and for all.”
“I hope that we can put partisanship aside and continue to do all we can to address this epidemic that is permeating our communities,” said House Speaker Crisanta Duran (D-Denver). Other Democrats co-sponsoring the bills include Rep. Chris Kennedy (D-Lakewood) and Sen. Irene Aguilar (D-Denver) Republicans co-sponsoring the bills include Sen. Kent Lambert (R-Colorado Springs), Sen. Kevin Priola (R-Henderson), Rep. Perry Buck (R-Windsor), and Sen. Jack Tate (R-Centennial). Independent Sen. Cheri Jahn of Wheat Ridge is also a co-sponsor.
The three House bills were introduced in the House Public Health Care and Human Services Committee Tuesday afternoon.