Colorado experts in combatting substance abuse are recommending ways cities, counties, and the state could use dollars anticipated from the settlement of lawsuits against companies and individuals involved in fostering the opioid crisis. In a report released December 5, experts recommend ways community and state leaders can put the money to use quickly and effectively.
The “Colorado Opioid Crisis Response Blueprint: A Guide for Opioid Settlement Investments” can help guide decision makers as they consider the options. It relays the results of a survey of experts working in law enforcement, clinical care, prevention, and other areas.
“We don’t yet know exactly when the settlements will be reached or how much Colorado will receive,” said Dr. Robert Valuck, a professor at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and the director of the Colorado Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, which houses the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention.
“What we do know is that once the money is available, state and local leaders will need a plan for making sure the funds are used wisely and on programs that can benefit those people and areas that need it most. We hope this Blueprint can be a valuable resource for their important conversations and decisions.”
Even if the settlements are very large, it is unlikely that they will adequately cover the costs of addressing all the negative impacts of the opioid crisis in Colorado. Elected officials and policymakers can use the report to help prioritize how they use the money.
Experts were asked how they would allocate a hypothetical $100 million settlement. The survey revealed a broad agreement across all fields that the largest portion of settlement money be used to expand treatment and recovery options, particularly in rural Colorado. Other main priorities, in order, were prevention, criminal justice, and harm reduction.
The Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention worked with the Colorado Health Institute, a nonprofit health research center, to complete the survey and report. Twenty-four participants from 20 professional organizations participated in the survey. CHI conducted the survey and analysis and produced the report.
Many important details about the settlements have yet to be worked out. Lawsuits involving pharmaceutical companies and drug distributors are being considered in federal court, and many states, cities, and counties are pursuing other legal strategies. It is expected that cities, counties, and the state will be eligible to receive settlement funds.
“We don’t want to be presumptuous or hasty, but we believe the approach outlined in the Blueprint has been valuable in clarifying some of the most urgent needs,” Valuck said.
While Colorado’s state government has worked on the opioid crisis for many years, cities and counties have different challenges and resources for addressing substance use. The Blueprint serves as a guide and workbook to help local leaders make the best decisions for their communities.
“Local governments like Prowers County have seen the damage caused by the epidemic up close, but we have not always had the means or ability to address it,” said Wendy Buxton-Andrade, a Prowers County Commissioner and member of Colorado Counties Inc.’s health committee. “This gives us an idea of what to prioritize while relying on what we’ve seen on the ground level.”
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