Rx Task Force gains momentum through Lunch & Learn series

Teresa Ristow
Rx Task Force founder Mara Rhodes shares her story with a large crowd during the first event last Wednesday in a four-part Lunch & Learn series. Rhodes lost her brother to an accidental opiate overdose in 2014.
John F. Russell

— The community appears to be showing interest in a new grassroots movement to raise awareness about opiate abuse in Steamboat Springs.

A packed audience at Library Hall on Wednesday listened intently during the first of four “Lunch & Learn” events planned by a new Rx Task Force. The task force is hoping to begin a community dialogue about the link between painkillers and heroin use, shed light on the situation locally and explore solutions.

“We are at the very tip of something pretty dangerous here,” said Ken Davis, a physician assistant and the director of community integration for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. “We need to stop the silence and have some authentic, difficult conversations.”

Davis said that, while acting as a prescriber outside of the area in the past, he was aware of three overdose deaths that took the lives of people he had been treating.

“I have had a hand in people dying, and I don’t want to sit here and be silent anymore,” Davis said.

Davis said it is important for people to drop the notion that opiate addiction won’t happen to them or the perception that there is no problem in Steamboat Springs.

Since moving to the area in the fall, Davis said he has been aware of four overdose deaths.

Davis introduced Mara Rhodes, a Steamboat Springs mother of three whose brother died of an accidental opiate overdose in October 2014.

Rhodes described the 10 years between when her brother checked into his first rehab facility and the day he died as “hell, pure hell” for her and her family.

“I truly believe if there’s a devil, this is where he lives,” Rhodes said.

A short video described the historical rise of morphine, heroin and then prescription painkillers and aimed to educate people about the potentially addictive physical reaction that takes place in a person’s brain when he or she uses an opiate.

Rhodes also shared an emotional slideshow video which included dozens of pictures of her and her brother.

Before her brother died, Rhodes said she never gained an understanding of what he was going through, and she hopes the Lunch & Learn programs will help ensure others have a better understanding of the struggles, as well as the odds, people addicted to opiates are facing.

“This addiction blows up fast, and I just don’t want to see this happen to this community,” she said.

Future Lunch & Learn programs are scheduled from noon to 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays, March 9, 16 and 23. An evening event with speaker Dennis Martinez is scheduled for Tuesday, March 22 at Colorado Mountain College, and a drug takeback event is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 26 at Sk8 Church.

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

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