Four-part Lunch & Learn series on opiate abuse begins Wednesday | SteamboatToday.com

Four-part Lunch & Learn series on opiate abuse begins Wednesday

Teresa Ristow

A four-part Lunch & Learn series on opiate use kicks off Wednesday at noon at the Bud Werner Memorial Library

— A four-part "Lunch & Learn" series to raise awareness about opiate abuse kicks off Wednesday afternoon.

Organized by a new Rx Task Force, the series will educate attendees about the dangers of painkillers, heroin and other drugs and the national opiate abuse epidemic and share various perspectives on the issue.

Wednesday's event, "How Did We Get Here?" runs from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Bud Werner Memorial Library and will feature speakers Ken Davis, director of community integration for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, and Mara Rhodes, founder of the Rx Task Force.

The speakers will give a one-hour presentation and educational introduction to the national opiate epidemic, followed by a 30-minute question-and-answer discussion.

Future events will take place March 9, 16 and 23.

"I think these events are great for educating on the issue of opiates in our area," said Scott Borden, owner of The Foundry, a substance abuse treatment facility in Steamboat Springs. "The best way to treat addiction is to prevent it from starting. Recovery is the hardest way. And that's coming from someone who is in the business of providing recovery. It's far better to catch this before it starts."

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Borden said the educational sessions would provide information valuable to any person, not just those who have been touched by the opiate epidemic.

He said it is important for people to start understanding the correlation between prescription pain medication and heroin use.

"People need to make a connection between your pain pills and the heroin overdoses you read about," Borden said. "They're the same thing . . . The extra pain pills you have from a past surgery in your medicine cabinet can be directly related to someone buying heroin off the street."

Davis, who is leading the Rx Task Force, said Wednesday’s event will include the presentation of some data related to the opiate crisis, but he will make sure there is ample time for audience discussion too.

“I’m just passionate that we’re going to end the silence on this,” said Davis, who is working to collect data on the local opiate issue.

Davis said 20 percent of Northwest Colorado youth said they had tried using a prescription medication for non-medical reasons, according to a 2014 Healthy Kids survey.

He also said the most recent adjusted rate of overdose deaths in Routt County is 10 people per 100,000, up from four people per 100,000 in 2002.

“I think the community really wants to learn more,” Davis said.

Routt County United Way Executive Director Kate Nowak said anyone who has used a painkiller or has some lying in a medicine cabinet should attend the series.

"If anyone has ever taken a painkiller, or if they have painkillers in their medicine cabinet, they need to come," Nowak said. "They need to learn why this is such a big issue in our community today."

Nowak said the sessions will help to heighten awareness about the local opiate use problem.

"I think it's a really big issue in our community. There are a lot of people with serious addictions that are dying," Nowak said. "It's not just a national issue. It's local. I think people need to come and get involved."

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

If you go:

What: “How Did We Get Here?,” Part I of a four-part Lunch & Learn series on opiate use awareness

When: Noon to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 2

Where: Bud Werner Memorial Library, 1289 Lincoln Ave.

Cost: Free, box lunch provided

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