Office of Behavioral Health receives over $30 million to address opioid crisis

DENVER (September 20, 2018) — Today the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced the Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health will receive $15,093,156 per year for two years through the State Opioid Response (SOR) Grant. The grant period begins September 30th.

With the money, the Department will build on their current work to increase access to substance use treatment, prevention and recovery services for people with opioid use disorder. This includes addiction and dependence on prescription painkillers, like OxyContin or Vicodin, or illegal drugs like heroin and fentanyl.   

“This grant will bring expanded opioid treatment services to the state of Colorado, specifically the rural communities,” said Dr. Robert Werthwein, director of the Office of Behavioral Health. “OBH has been working for the past year to build new partnerships with hospitals, jails, opioid treatment programs, payers, and people in recovery. These partnerships are essential to building sustainable programs that will continue long after the grant is over.” 

Plans for the funding focus heavily on expanding access to medication-assisted treatment (MAT). MAT is a highly effective treatment that includes traditional group and individual therapy along with anti-craving medications such as methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone. The anti-craving medications help reduce relapse and overdose and increase chances of long term recovery. The grant will support six new mobile health units that can travel to rural and frontier communities, training for doctors and nurses to prescribe MAT, and payment for treatment for people who are uninsured.

The six mobile health units will travel to rural, underserved areas with high overdose rates, minimal treatment options and those areas who exemplify community readiness. The units will be staffed with a nurse, masters level counselor and peer navigator with video conferencing and telehealth capabilities. Other grant activities include: 

  • Plans to purchase and train people to use the life-saving overdose reversal drug, naloxone. During the first year of the grant, naloxone saved 437 people from overdose in Colorado. 
  • Expansion of the Lift the Label anti-stigma campaign that connects people to effective treatment services.
  • Ten hospital pilots to promote safe prescribing and pain management through the alternative to opioids (ALTOs) model. 
  • Family support services that help children and loved ones of those battling addiction. 
  • Local community planning grants, workforce trainings and education. 

OBH’s focus and strategic plan for the use of all federal opioid funding is to create new access points for treatment, collaborate more with local partners, train the workforce and provide the resources available to all Coloradoans who may be struggling with opioid use disorder. 


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