Gov. Polis declares September as National Recovery Month in Colorado

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FILE – This photo provided by the U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah and introduced as evidence in a 2019 trial shows fentanyl-laced fake oxycodone pills collected during an investigation. In a resumption of a brutal trend, nearly 71,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2019 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a new record high that predates the COVID-19 crisis. The numbers were driven by fentanyl and similar synthetic opioids, which accounted for 36,500 overdose deaths. (U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah via AP)

DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis declared September as National Recovery Month in Colorado as deaths due to overdose reached an all-time high in 2020, a rising trend exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The month gains new urgency as nearly 1,500 Coloradans died from an overdose in 2020, a 38% increase from 2019, according to data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)

National Recovery Month, led by the Faces and Voices of Recovery, fights stigma and raises awareness of treatments that can support people living with substance use disorders (SUD).

On Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera hosted a press conference for International Overdose Awareness Day that honored Coloradans who died from overdose and highlighted treatment and recovery efforts, including the state’s mobile health services program offering medications for treating opioid use disorder. Representatives from the Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS), Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) and CDPHE spoke, as well as a treatment provider and a person in recovery. Read the proclamation and watch the press conference recording

“It’s critical to lift up stories of recovery as we empower those working to overcome substance use disorders,” said CDHS executive director Michelle Barnes. “We are honored to recognize September as Recovery Month in Colorado and continue our efforts to reduce stigma and expand treatment so everyone can get the care they need.” 

Over the next four years, Colorado will receive $113 million in federal block grant funding for substance use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery services, $55 million of which were allocated through the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations and American Rescue Plan Act stimulus packages. The Behavioral Health Recovery Act, SB 21-137, allocated $114 million to state behavioral health programs. 

OBH is also retooling its marketing and outreach campaigns that encourage people to seek SUD care. Lift The Label, which strives to remove the stigma of SUD and connect Coloradans to treatment, features a new, diverse group of campaign spokespeople. The Recovery Cards Project will also unveil a new lineup of greeting cards this month written by and for people in recovery and their loved ones. 

“I am grateful and honored to be a part of the solution to break the stigma of addiction,” said Keith Hayes, the director of 5280 High School and person in recovery. Hayes is also a Lift The Label spokesperson. “The Lift The Label campaign has given us a voice to share our experience and strength to those struggling and given hope that they can recover as well.”

The state is also investing in recovery housing, which provides safe, substance-free living environments that support people in recovery. Later this month, Oxford House, a recovery housing nonprofit, will open its 100th facility in Colorado, a house for women in recovery and their children.

“Over the course of the last decade, our organization has remained dedicated to achieve this milestone. The announcement of our 100th house is presented with pride and gratitude, and with sincere thanks offered to the recovery community organizations and behavioral health providers who helped make this possible,” said Taylor Wright, senior outreach coordinator with Oxford House Colorado. “Our team considers it a remarkable opportunity to celebrate and present this accomplishment during Recovery Month in Colorado.” 

Coloradans concerned about their substance use or a loved one’s can speak to a trained professional by contacting Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or texting TALK to 38255. Learn more at coloradocrisisservices.org.

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