The Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, housed in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, is part of a state-wide coalition recognized with a first-of-its-kind award. The John’s Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health issued its first official recognition of Excellence in the Application of the Opioid Litigation Principles to the State of Colorado for distinction in incorporating the Opioid Litigation Principles into its process for distribution of national opioid litigation settlement funds.
Since 1999 more than 500,000 people across the U.S. have died from opioid overdoses. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Colorado saw an almost 70% increase in fatal fentanyl overdoses during the pandemic, bringing state-wide overdose deaths to more than 1,800.
Some Consortium members at a recent symposium on harm reduction.
To combat this crisis, the Colorado Department of Law, along with states across the nation, sued unscrupulous manufacturers and distributors for their role in the opioid epidemic. To date, Colorado has secured over $740 million in monetary damages from the national opioid settlement – earmarked to invest in evidence-based solutions aimed at curbing overdose deaths in the 312 participating local governments across the state.
That’s where the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention comes in. The Consortium, along with a coalition of other non-profits, took the lead in making sure that the influx of funding streams from the opioid litigation avoided what happened with the dollars that states received as part of the litigation against tobacco companies more than 20 years ago. Overall, less than 3% of the tobacco settlement actually went to tobacco control efforts.
That’s why the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health created the Principles for the Use of Funds from the Opioid Litigation. The Principles focus on five key commitments: 1) Spend the money to save lives; 2) Use evidence to guide spending; 3) Invest in youth prevention; 4) Focus on racial equity; and 5) Develop a fair and transparent process for deciding where to spend the funding.
The recent award specifically recognized Colorado’s efforts in using evidence to guide spending (Principle 2), including putting into place the right policies to support evidence-based approaches, and developing a fair and transparent process for deciding where to spend the funds (Principle 5).
The Consortium Leads the Way
In 2019, in anticipation of the opioid litigation settlement funds, the Consortium took the lead in convening multiple stakeholders for the expressed purpose to help guide the use of settlement funds in alignment with evidence-based approaches to mitigating the opioid crisis.
“There were a small number of bell weather settlements in three states in 2018 and 2019 and it was clear there was very little planning in those states about how best to make use of the settlement funds,” Jose Esquibel, Associate Director of the Consortium, explained. “The work of the Consortium in conjunction with the Colorado Office of the Attorney General and the Interim Study Committee on Opioids and Other Substance Use Disorders began work on updating state drug policy laws to help further enable the implementation of evidence-based approaches to mitigating the opioid crisis.”
The Consortium along with the Colorado Office of the Attorney General, Colorado Counties, Inc., the Colorado Municipal League, and the Colorado Health Institute formed the Colorado Opioid Crisis Response Blueprint: A Guide for Opioid Settlement Investments. This document helped guide discussions among county commissioners in working to negotiate with the Colorado Office of the Attorney General on the structure and processes for distribution of opioid settle funds in Colorado in which the majority of dollars would go to local communities rather than into the state departments. While the Consortium helped form the Colorado Blueprint, it also provided other services throughout the state.
Consortium Executive Director Rob Valuck, PharmD, (left) is pictured on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol to kick off Naloxone Awareness Month.
“Our staff at the Consortium provided consultation services to guide various regions in setting up regional boards and preparing plans for use of settlement funds, aligned with allowable uses related to prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery strategies,” Esquibel said.
Such collaboration is a hallmark of the Consortium’s efforts to lead the state’s response to prescription medication misuse and abuse. Since its inception in 2013, the Consortium has provided legislative leadership, developed the Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative, created free provider education, hosted scores of seminars and work groups and produced state-wide opioid awareness and abuse prevention campaigns.
Learn More About the CO Consortium for the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Here.