Grand Futures: Substance-use disorder is a local issue
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Between 2016 and 2019, the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention recorded 19 drug overdose deaths in Routt County. Like many communities, ours was not prepared for the onset of this epidemic.
However, the availability of treatment and recovery resources has caught up in recent years. Clinical admissions for heroin use dropped from 2017 to 2018, which is a great direction considering these rates doubled every two years from 2010 to 2018. Although shifting data trends show positive impacts, our community is diligently working to meet needs substance use disorder, or SUD, creates.
As of 2017, Routt and Moffat counties each have one clinic that provides medically assisted treatment, or MAT, which has a higher percentage success rate for opioid abuse recovery. Outside of the Yampa Valley, the closest MAT services are in Eagle, Summit and Mesa counties. Resource gaps exist, such as detox services accepting Medicaid patients and available beds reserved for people experiencing mental illness that correlate with SUD.
However, community collaborators creatively find solutions. The MAT “mobile units” at Front Range Clinic and Rural Alliance for Substance Use Disorder-Colorado potentially both have recruited Alpine Taxi to transport individuals to where their specific needs can be met.
Public awareness of the opioid epidemic varies, as do opinions about how to best address the issues. There is a perception that opioid abuse is not an issue here compared to the rest of the country. Yet for community members who are professionally affiliated or have been personally affected by SUD, there is daily awareness of this community issue.
One perception is that increasing the amount of clinics and services will attract more addicts to our neighborhoods. This is a straightforward stigma, but stigma is also the “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” mindset found here in Northwest Colorado. This approach is just not effective for a disorder that only amplifies over time or at best plateaus — one that does not discriminate between any demographic.
Stigma not only bars resources from entering a community, it also makes individuals avoid using the resources, especially in communities the size of Steamboat. When a community is tightly knit, identifying an individual is easy and judgment is exacerbated. The solution to stigma is education, which will also help align the community on how to address issues surrounding opioid-use disorder, but it is not something that is talked about freely.
Matthew Martinez is a community connector VISTA working in the community through the Colorado Community Opioid Response Program and hosted by Grand Futures Prevention Coalition.
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