State legislators promote comprehensive legislation to fund mental health and substance abuse programs

State legislators promote comprehensive legislation to fund mental health and substance abuse programs

Source “I think that the awareness around, unfortunately, how bad it’s gotten and how many families have been affected with loved ones who’ve gone through this, or are currently going through this or lives that have been lost unnecessarily has brought some political will, that hasn’t been there in the past, but it is still a fight every single year for me to get these items to be prioritized,” Pettersen said. 

The number has continued to climb. Final data for 2020 is not yet available, but early analysis from the Colorado Health Institute found a 35 percent increase in overdose deaths from January to April 2020 as compared to the year prior. Opioid deaths have been on the rise in Colorado and nationally for nearly two decades. In 2001, 23 people died in the state from a heroin overdose in Colorado. By 2016, that number spiked almost ten times to 228.

In 2019, 1,062 people died from a drug overdose, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, an increase of 9 percent over 2018.  “Having had a mom who struggled with a substance use disorder, basically my entire life and living through that for 30 years and completely feeling hopeless and helpless. When she finally got the care that she needed, she was actually able to recover,” Pettersen said. “What has been really motivating for me is that we know what we need to do. We know what works, it’s just that we never actually cared to prioritize it in this state. And that’s unacceptable.”

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