Representatives from Eastern Colorado convened in Keystone to discuss efforts to expand addiction treatment and mental health measures in the Eastern Plains region of the state.
The meeting was part of Colorado Counties Incorporated’s (CCI) 2018 summer conference. Commissioners in attendance represented Kit Carson, Lincoln, Cheyenne, Phillips, Elbert, Washington, Yuma, Logan, Morgan and Sedgwick counties.
Numerous mental health professionals joined the commissioners for a discussion entitled ‘The State of Behavioral Health in Northeastern Colorado.’ A recent CCI newsletter detailed the meeting’s agenda.
CCI Eastern District members noted how the opioid epidemic has greatly affected the area.
One representative stated that there is a lack of addiction treatment and mental health services in Logan County. Because of this, child services offices and law enforcement bear much of the responsibility in assisting individuals with mental health issues and substance use disorders.
Two other commissioners presented information that highlighted that even though less than 15 percent of the state’s population resides in Eastern Colorado, the counties account for nearly 25 percent of addiction treatment programs admissions.
Due to the lack of resources, many residents in the 10 counties do not have access to treatment.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) treatment locator, the majority of addiction treatment providers are located in metropolitan areas of Colorado such as Fort Collins, Denver, Boulder and Pueblo. There are only 10 substance abuse facilities located across the counties comprising CCI’s Eastern District. While SAMHSA lists six of those counties as having one center each, Morgan County has two while Cheyenne County has none.
Preliminary data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has revealed that there were 1,045 drug-induced deaths in the state during 2017. Colorado residents between the ages of 25 and 44 were the most affected demographic, followed by those between the ages of 45 and 64. Nearly 100 statewide alcohol-induced deaths were also reported that year.
Of the counties comprising the Eastern Plains region, Cheyenne, Logan, Phillips and Sedgwick Counties experienced zero overdose fatalities while Kit Carson, Lincoln, Elbert, Washington, Yuma and Morgan Counties each reported one or two drug-induced related incidents. Similar county-based numbers for alcohol-induced deaths were also listed.
To battle the rising opioid crisis, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed five bipartisan bills into law in May. The laws included measures to impose limits on prescribed opioids, establish a loan repayment program and scholarships for practitioners servicing rural communities and provide resources to help individuals with behavioral health issues or substance use disorders transition from emergency care to addiction treatment programs.
During the CCI meeting, attendants developed a nine-step plan to address gaps in mental health and substance abuse care. Some of these steps include establishing additional treatment centers by removing licensing barriers, recruiting Medicaid-certified specialists in the region and offer non-opioid medications for patients.
A Colorado Department of Health Services representative emphasized the need for the counties to collaborate on these issues.
CCI will hold another conference in Colorado Springs in November.