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UCCS to combat opioid crisis with new substance use counseling center

Pandemic perpetuates opioid crisis
Posted at 5:42 PM, Mar 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-21 21:50:06-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — A local college is hoping to combat the ongoing opioid crisis with a new substance use counseling center.

"The CARE Center" would be established within the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to provide substance use prevention and treatment services, train substance use counselors, and collect data on treatment options.

"We're seeing a lot of what other organizations are seeing. COVID-19, in particular, seemed to have a pretty substantial negative impact on the rates of use, overdose deaths, hospital admissions, and severity of disease," said PJ Higgins with the Coalition for Prevention, Addiction Education and Recovery.

Higgins says pandemic-related stressors may be leading to the increasing use of substances.

"Recently, fentanyl has become much more serious. Leading to an increase in overdose deaths," said Higgins. "Through the first three months of 2022, we're on pace to more than double the amounts of deaths we had last year."

He believes the CARE Center would be a good resource for the community.

"This is exactly the right kind of thing. It's a new innovative approach, they're doing a lot of telehealth work which is extremely important because Colorado Springs acts as a hub for rural communities where treatment access is hard," said Higgins.

"This is really just to get something up and going in our community to get ahead of it. This is a growing problem and we don't see an end yet so we want to divert as many people as possible into treatment and prevent them from even getting into an addiction situation," said Rep. Marc Synder (D) Colorado Springs.

Synder along with Rep. Shane Sandridge, R-Colorado Springs are sponsoring House Bill 1158 that would provide UCCS with the funding.

"It's only about $150,000 because UCCS would provide us the center and the support we would need," said Synder.

Its possible funds could come from behavioral health grants and not through the general fund.

"Right now, the bill is in a holding pattern with the behavioral health committee because it may be faster and more efficient to go for a grant," said Synder.

"We really don't want to think about band-aid solutions but how do we build a long-term infrastructure," said Higgins.