Opioid Abuse and Prevention
Gunnison County Substance Abuse Prevention Program, a community coalition,
has been at the forefront of preventing youth substance abuse for several
years. Among its accomplishments has been increasing protective factors
in the community with the Choice Pass program, parent and youth education,
and collaborating with RE1-J school district to help implement the Sources
of Strength program.
In recent years, opioids have become the most commonly abused drugs both
nationally and in Colorado (ranks 2nd in prescription drug abuse). Over
300 Coloradans die every year from opioid overdose. In Gunnison County,
the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey revealed that the use of prescription
for nonmedical purposes almost doubled between 2014 and 2015 in youth
6th -12th grade. While detailed up to the minute data is not available
from Gunnison County, first responders and other authorities recognize
that opioid abuse and overdoses are increasing here.
GCSAPP, under the leadership of Kari Commerford, its Program Director,
has recognized the scope of the problem, and is partnering with John Tarr,
M. D., retired Family Physician; Carol Worrall, Director of Public Health;
and Kimberly Behounek, Regional Manager for the Center for Mental Health,
to attack it at its roots. The most common “gateways” to opioid
dependence are legally prescribed pain medications, usually in quantities
that are more than are needed for the treatment of painful medical and
surgical conditions. The “leftover” pills in the medicine
cabinet are then readily available for overuse and/or use for experimentation
and recreation. When prescriptions become more difficult to obtain, many
abusers turn to “street” drugs, such as heroin.
Dr. Tarr and Kari have presented short educational sessions to the Gunnison
Valley Hospital Medical Staff on limiting and controlling prescriptions.
They collaboratively organized an event on the topic last Fall which included
an afternoon Town Hall format meeting for the public and an educational
session for professionals, including physicians, PA’s, nurse practitioners,
nurses, dentists, veterinarians, EMS, mental health providers, public
health, health educators, and alternative medicine providers.
GCSAPP continues an active prevention program called Stop, Lock, and Drop,
which encourages responsible medical use by limiting prescribed quantities,
using only necessary amounts, securing and/or locking, and using drug
takeback programs for leftover pills. Additionally, follow-up meetings
are being planned with prescribers in order to decrease the likelihood
of opioid abuse increasing in our community.
You can help fight opioid abuse by utilizing drug takeback programs for
leftover pills and safely securing your prescription medications. Local
law enforcement agencies have drop boxes throughout Gunnison County where
you can safely dispose of your prescription medications.
For more information on preventing opioid abuse, contact Kari Commerford
at GCSAPP at 970-642-7393. You can also visit www.gunnisonvalleyhealth.org/healthspot
for more information and resources.