Our view: The battle against the opioid epidemic continues | SteamboatToday.com

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Our view: The battle against the opioid epidemic continues

At issue: Routt County was recently chosen as one of only two counties in the state to receive state marijuana tax revenue funds to establish a local medication-assisted treatment program for opioid addicts.
Our view: This program, plus another pilot program underway at Yampa Valley Medical Center to curb the prescription of opioids in emergency rooms, are positive signs our community is finding ways to fight the opioid epidemic.
Editorial Board:
• Suzanne Schlicht, COO and publisher
• Lisa Schlichtman, editor
• Jim Patterson, evening editor
• Tom Ross, reporter
• Steve Ivancie, community representative
• Paul Stettner, community representative
Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.

The opioid epidemic is real, and as the Steamboat Pilot & Today has reported and continues to report, it's hit Steamboat Springs and Routt County hard. One overdose death is too many, and from 2014 to 2016, the rate of drug overdose deaths in Routt County increased six-fold, with more than 65 percent of those deaths attributed to the abuse of prescription opioids.

Thanks to the efforts of the Rx Task Force, a group of concerned community leaders who began meeting in late 2015 to work toward educating the public about the growing problem, the issue of prescription drug abuse in our area is not going unnoticed, nor will the problem go away without a fight.

That's why we were encouraged when it was announced this month that Routt County and Yampa Valley Medical Center will be part of two different statewide initiatives aimed at fighting opioid abuse.

Senate Bill 74 allocates $1 million in state marijuana tax revenues to help fight the opioid epidemic in Routt and Pueblo counties, which have been identified as two of the counties hit hardest by the problem. The funds would go toward establishing a local medication-assisted treatment program for opioid addicts. Right now, there is only one doctor in Routt County providing this type of treatment, and often, people living here have to travel out of town to get the help they need.

In addition to this initiative, Yampa Valley Medical Center will be one of eight Colorado health care facilities participating in the Colorado Opioid Safety Program — a pilot project aimed at reducing the use of opioids prescribed by Colorado emergency departments through the implementation of new guidelines that will explore different medications and alternative remedies to treat pain at its source, rather than relying on a systemic opioid, which is highly addictive. The goal of this program, if successful, is to eventually use the model in emergency rooms across the state.

We think our communities' involvement in these two programs signals that we're moving the needle in the right direction when it comes to trying to combat this widespread epidemic. One of the programs addresses the source of the problem, and the other helps people get help on the other side of their addiction.

It's encouraging to see Routt County among the state's leaders when it comes to addressing the issue, but there's still work to be done. It's imperative that community members remain engaged. It is always better to try to stop a problem before it begins, and that happens through education and awareness about the issues of addiction and recovery.

Drug addiction, especially when it comes to the abuse of prescribed opioids, knows no economic or social boundaries. And for those who still think Steamboat Springs and Routt County don't have a problem with prescription drug abuse and who think it couldn't happen to them, wake up and pay attention.

Opioid addiction has already claimed the lives of too many community members, including teenagers, college students and business owners, and as a community, we need to continue to pull our collective heads out of the sand and work together to fight this battle and seek solutions.