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Denver Releases Opioid Response Strategic Plan to Address Growing Crisis

Denver Public Health & Environment convened more than 100 agencies and organizations to effect change around substance (mis)use

DENVER - Today, Mayor Michael B. Hancock and the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) released the Opioid Response Strategic Plan, a roadmap to improving our quality of life, as well as a call to action for our community as we face a growing national crisis. We must all work together – government agencies, community organizations, health care providers, law enforcement, citizens – to effectively address the widespread, complex epidemic of opioid (mis)use.

(Mis)use encompasses both substance use in general, as well as using drugs for reasons other than their intended purpose. The foundation of the plan is a needs assessment conducted by DDPHE to gather information from those directly impacted by opioid (mis)use. This five-year Action Plan to address opioid (mis)use in Denver was formed through information gleaned from our opioid needs assessment, conducted with people currently using substances; along with the work, expertise, and experience of the Collective Impact Group, a team of leaders from across government agencies and community organizations.

“Substance misuse touches every one of us in some way, and we are determined to support our community as we work together toward a better tomorrow. To correct the social and economic devastation this epidemic has caused our people, it will take a truly united effort like this to combat the opioid crisis in our city,” Mayor Hancock said.

Announced at the Mayor’s State of the City Address on July 16, the Opioid Response Strategic Plan lays out a series of goals supported by strategies and activities to achieve them. Guided by the primary intentions of preventing substance (mis)use, improving treatment access and retention, and reducing harm, the plan aims to diminish stigma surrounding substance (mis)use, eliminate barriers to accessing treatment, ensure equity, create opportunity, and build resiliency.

“In order to stem the surge of overdoses and negative impacts of substance (mis)use, it is essential for local public health departments to work with partners from all fields, spanning from prevention to law enforcement to harm reduction and recovery communities,” said Bob McDonald, Executive Director of DDPHE.

In 2016, opioids were involved in 42,249 deaths in the U.S. Communities across the nation are reckoning with the rising (mis)use of opioids and resulting increase in overdoses. This takes a huge toll on the country, including deaths, visits to the emergency room, hospital stays, and unmeasurable pain felt by those who have become addicted to these drugs along with their families and communities. The opioid epidemic is one of the largest public health issues we face today. Denver is determined to address this crisis in a meaningful and measurable way.