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The Rocky Mountain Collegian

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The Rocky Mountain Collegian

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CSU, CU tackle opioid crisis; Colorado continues solutions

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Collegian | Chloe Leline

Divided by mascots but united in state pride, Colorado State University and the University of Colorado Boulder have one common interest: The well-being of their cities. 

In Colorado, the opioid crisis has claimed hundreds of lives, whether from suicide or accidental overdose. It is an issue that has infiltrated Colorado communities. 

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Prevention has been a major focus in several counties. The capabilities to administer naloxone and provide addiction resources have been at the front of the conversation. It has led to money from pharmaceutical companies‘ payouts being used in Colorado to fund substance abuse programs statewide.

Attorney General Phil Weiser announced the third round of this funding to be a part of an estimated $458 million that Colorado intends to distribute to regional “opioid abatement” councils over 18 years

There were a recorded 47 opioid overdoses in Larimer County and 39 in Boulder County in 2022. In Larimer County, 26 of those deaths were people from ages 15-34; in Boulder County, 14 of those deaths were in the same age range. 

“If any kid is offered a Xanax, it is exceedingly likely that what they are being given is fentanyl with an amount that can kill,” Weiser said in Montrose, Colorado, at the annual Colorado Opioid Abatement Conference in August. “We are living at a time that is more dangerous for kids than may have ever existed, certainly more than we were growing up.”

Being well aware of these concerns and the risk people are at in this state, many government and local entities have taken action. CU Boulder has worked to provide students with prevention, intervention and recovery resources. 

While CU Boulder has seen few incidents related to fentanyl, we understand that overdose incidents have had significant impacts to those involved on and off campus,” their Health & Wellness Services website reads. “Health Promotion has worked over the past several years to increase access to naloxone, a life-saving drug that can reverse opioid overdoses.”

“Recent changes to legislation and over-the-counter designations have provided our campus with an opportunity to increase distribution on campus and in the community,” the website continues. “Health Promotion has also helped promote the use of fentanyl test strips, which can detect fentanyl in a variety of substances, including counterfeit prescriptions.”

CSU offers similar resources, such as medication-assisted treatment through the CSU Health Network and informative articles on fentanyl

“There’s a big push to get more Narcan available,” Larimer County Coroner Stephen Hanks said. “Really centering the message on getting Narcan out there, getting it accessible and educating people on the benefits of having Narcan readily accessible in the public places and buildings and schools.”

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Fentanyl is beginning to be sought out, Hanks said. Many of the overdose cases Hanks encounters have shifted from being heroin, prescription oxycodone or prescription opioids to fentanyl. 

“Now people are looking for fentanyl,” Hanks said. “So when you have the fentanyl test strips, … it doesn’t really do a lot of good when people are seeking out fentanyl.”

These tests don’t quantify the strength of the drug — only its presence, and with it becoming more sought out, those tests no longer have those preventative results they once did. When communities lose people to overdose, they often have to interact with the county coroner, and when Hanks has spoken with families or roommates, the impact varies. 

“When just talking with families, they kind of know that their their family member has had a long history of abuse,” Hanks said. “Some families are closer than others, and some have already kind of moved on past that relationship and cut the person off because it’s just a toxic relationship. But other families are always there trying to help.” 

In the wake of such a loss, it is not just the individual who is impacted. Families, roommates, friends — all have to come to terms with the shock of an overdose. While prevention and education are major focuses, Larimer County also assists families in the aftermath of loss. 

For families who are struggling from the loss of a loved one to addiction or overdose, there’s a family advocate at the Office of the Larimer County Coroner, Hanks said. The role of this advocate is to follow up with these families and with roommates and anyone who is affected by the death. 

“I want them to know that there’s help out there,” Hanks said. “There’s lots of really good services in the county and Fort Collins as well.”

Reach Ivy Secrest at science@collegian.com or on Twitter @IvySecrest.

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About the Contributors
Ivy Secrest, Content Managing Editor
Ivy Secrest is The Collegian's content managing editor. Secrest uses she/her/hers pronouns and has worked for The Collegian previously as a reporter and as life and culture director for the 2022-23 academic year. As a senior in the journalism and media communications department, Secrest enjoys reporting on environmental and social issues with a special interest in science communication. She is president of the Science Communication Club and is pursuing a minor in global environmental sustainability with hopes of utilizing her education in her career. Growing up in Denver, Secrest developed a deep love for the outdoors. She could happily spend the rest of her life hiking alpine environments, jumping into lakes, taking photos of the wildflowers and listening to folk music. She's passionate about skiing, hiking, dancing, painting, writing poetry and camping. Secrest's passions spurred her career in journalism, helping her reach out to her community and get involved in topics that students and residents of Fort Collins truly care about. She has taken every opportunity to connect with the communities she has reported in and has written for several of the desks at The Collegian, including news, life and culture, cannabis, arts and entertainment and opinion. She uses her connections with the community to inform both managerial and editorial decisions with hopes that the publication serves as a true reflection of the student body's interests and concerns. Secrest is an advocate of community-centered journalism, believing in the importance of fostering meaningful dialogue between press and community.
Chloe Leline, Print Editor
Chloe Leline is a fourth-year art student majoring in graphic design and is the current print editor for The Rocky Mountain Collegian. Some of her duties include overlooking and editing the majority of the layout design in the newspaper and pushing the creative limits of the overall paper design. She was born and raised in a one-stoplight Michigan town and moved with her family to the big city of Austin, Texas, at 10 years old. There, she was able to get more in touch with her creative passions. In middle school, she discovered her love for design, and in high school, she became the editor in chief of her school's yearbook. These passions led her to Colorado State University. Art and print production give Leline an outlet to express her love of everything visual. Whether it’s a spread design in the newspaper or a quick sketch in her notebook, creating tangible things brings her happiness every day.  Working alongside other driven individuals at The Rocky Mountain Collegian brings Leline the extra inspiration that she has been longing for. She hopes her love for design can shine throughout the paper and bring readers that extra spark of joy she was lucky enough to find.