SOUTHERN COLORADO — In the wake of millions of dollars being cut from state funding of substance use treatment this year, the U.S. Office of Justice Programs (OJP) granted over $341 million to fight drug addiction across the country. Colorado will be awarded over $11 million of that.
The Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention has a grant writing program that can assist different organizations with the grant process. The consortium helped with some of the grant writing for these federal funds.
"Any amount of money is going to be helpful for us here in Colorado. The opioid crisis has not been evaded. And in fact, COVID-19 and that response has, if anything else, aggravated that particular crisis in terms of social isolation, the trauma related to losing one's job,or loss of income. We are seeing spikes in overdose deaths due to opioids and other drugs," said Jose Esquibel, the associate director of the consortium.
According to U.S. Attorney for the District of Colorado, Jason Dunn, the money will be distributed in the following fashion:
- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) will receive $6,000,000 to implement, enhance or evaluate responses to the opioid and stimulant crises.
- The Colorado Judicial Department will receive: $498,080 to enhance their existing fully operational veterans treatment courts; $750,000 to support their statewide efforts to enhance or expand adult drug court or veterans treatment court services; and $453,445 for the expansion of parental substance use disorder treatment services in existing family drug courts.
- The Colorado Division of Criminal Justice will receive $452,616 for their residential substance abuse treatment program for state prisoners.
- The City of Alamosa will receive $599,997 and Boulder County will receive $884,014 to expand access to supervision, treatment and recovery support services, support law enforcement and other first responder diversion programs for non-violent drug offenders, promote education and prevention activities; and address the needs of children impacted by the opioid and stimulant epidemics.
- The Boulder Municipal Court will receive $400,000 to develop effective responses to low-level and non-violent offenses involving opioids.
- Partners in Routt County will receive $1,243,678 to address opioid and other substance abuse by building a youth mentoring program.
Esquibel said the services regarding treatment in prison or drug court are essential for the road to recovery. "Incarceration is really expensive. It's an expensive way to treat people. And, really when a substance use disorder or an opioid disorder is the primary issue, we want to make sure that our system is not criminalizing these people any further than what's already occurred in their lifetime... These kind of programs are essential for the springboard to help people move into that long-term recovery," said Esquibel.
The City of Alamosa is set to receive almost $600,000 over three years, that will go toward expanding their Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, which was started in 2018. "These are programs that, with the limited resources we have, we wouldn't be able to do them, without these grants," said the City Manager of Alamosa, Heather Brooks.
Under LEAD, officers could find someone breaking the law at a minor level, and if the offender meets the criteria, they could be diverted into the program instead of jail. The offender is then matched with a case manager, who helps decipher what the root problem is behind the criminal activity. "The case manager works with that individual to find out, why are they even offending? So, is it something where they need a job? Is it something where they need a home? Is there an addiction issue?... We have seen for those individuals who are working with their case manager, a pretty significant reduction in repeat crimes," said Brooks.
The case manager works with an individual for any length of time. Those with the City of Alamosa say the grant money would pay for another case manager, and a position in the District Attorney's office.
Right now, there are only two ways to be considered for the program: someone has broken the law and is recommended to it, or law enforcement knows of someone who breaks the law frequently and would be a good candidate. The federal money will open up another avenue for people to get into the LEAD program. "It allows for someone, who may not have had interaction with law enforcement, who realizes they're not making the best decisions, they have some issues they need to receive help on - they get connected with a case manager, and again, they start that healing process," said Brooks.
The program teaches people living with addiction how to navigate the web of existing resources available to them.
Brooks also said the LEAD program is something Alamosa hopes to keep. "We also realize with the national discussion we have of Black Lives Matter, and how to come about law enforcement from other sides, that hopefully these are some of the programs that will remain for funding options for the state and federal government. Because it really does give more tools to our officers to help some of these offenders," said Brooks.
Esquibel also said the recent multi-billion dollar settlement from Purdue Pharma, the creator of oxycontin, means more opioid treatment grants will become available. He said Colorado will have to be aggressive in applying for them.
News5 spoke with the Director of Opioid Response for the Colorado Attorney General's Office, Heidi Williams, in September. At that time, she said their office had been gathering information about where and how to best distribute settlement funds expected to come to Colorado. Williams said the exact amount of money was subject to change, and that it could come over a long period of time.