Mountain Range Background Image


March's Healthspot Topic: Opioid Abuse and Prevention

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 for more information and resources.