The Coalition for Prevention, Addiction Education, and Recovery (CPAR), a program of Community Health Partnership

Background

The nation’s opioid crisis is a topic that receives wide coverage in the media. Given the scope of the crisis, the attention is warranted.

60% of drug overdose deaths, now the leading cause of unintentional deaths in the United States, involve an opioid

Americans are dying are dying at a rate of 91 individuals every day from an opioid overdose – four people every 15 minutes.

Root causes of the opioid epidemic include:

unsafe medication disposal or storage,

overprescribing of opioid painkillers,

the lack of practitioners trained in pain management, opioid pharmacology, and addiction,

prescription opioid medications are very powerful, highly addictive if not used properly,

compounding the opioid crisis are fragmented treatment options that are costly, and difficult to access. 

El Paso County Drug Overdose Deaths

From 2012 to 2014, more than 50 people in El Paso County died of heroin-related overdoses.

In 2016 there were 120 individuals who died from overdoses.

CPAR’s Vision and Mission

Vision Statement: We are a safe, informed, and thriving community of engaged individuals making healthy choices free of substance misuse.

Mission Statement: To build a sustainable community of partnerships committed to preventing and reducing substance misuse by promoting a culture of wellness through education, prevention, treatment and recovery support. 

CPAR’s Response to the Opioid Epidemic

In March 2016, CHP convened key stakeholders in the community to address the opioid crisis in El Paso County, which was evidenced by high numbers of emergency department visits and hospital admissions, children experiencing abuse and neglect because their caregiver is using drugs, limited access to treatment services, and drug-related crimes.

Establishment of a community coalition comprised of four work groups: Access to Treatment, Public Awareness, Provider Education and Public Safety. Over the course of six months, members of the work groups met to identify gaps, assess community capacity and prioritize recommendations relevant to the opioid crisis.

On September 27, 2016, CPAR, formerly called the El Paso County Opioid Coalition, hosted a community forum to report on these recommendations, and to begin the development of a community-based response to the Nearly 60 individuals were in attendance, including representation from Colorado Springs local government, the Colorado Attorney General’s office, the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, and key stakeholders from the community.  During this meeting, it was acknowledged that a community readiness assessment needed to be done prior to implementation of interventions identified by the workgroups

In February 2017 CHP was awarded a one-year grant from The Colorado Health Foundation to conduct a Community Readiness Assessment and Action Plan concerning opioid misuse and abuse.

Read the report here.

Coalition Activities

Completed a Community Readiness Assessment

Promoted public awareness in the community:

Hosted events showing Chasing the Dragon, a documentary produced by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), about the lives of individuals who struggle with opioid use disorders

Hosted presentation about the Landmark Community School, a high school that “offers students the opportunity to grow academically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually by integrating the principles of recovery in a project-based learning environment. 

Community Engagement

CPAR is designed to address the complex issue of substance use disorders.  By connecting multiple community partners to work collectively, CPAR facilitates collaboration, development of plans, policies and strategies to achieve common goals.  Following are CPAR’s workgroups and goals that are open to participation by members of the community:

Access to Treatment – Develop targeted solutions to address the barriers that exist to accessing treatments for substance use disorders

Affected Families and Friends – Reduce community stigma and misconceptions through addiction education, personal stories of self, and raise awareness about recovery resources

Data – Identify and prioritize shared measurements for incorporation into a community action plan

Provider Education – Develop targeted solutions to close the gaps in provider education. Identify key information needed to support and promote safe prescribing practices.  Identify evidence-based practices that support early identification, intervention, treatment, and recovery

Public Awareness – Develop a comprehensive public awareness campaign to include strategic messaging, grassroots outreach, media relations, engaging local government, and social media presence that focus on the scope of the problem, prevention, and harm reduction strategies, e.g., use of Narcan to reverse an overdose

Public Safety – Increase the public’s safety through collaborative efforts that are in alignment with current efforts to reduce recidivism

Call to Action

The opioid crisis has devastated countless families in El Paso County – a crisis where no sector of society is immune from the devastation.  Lives have been shattered without regard to income, race, ethnicity, gender, family structure or educational attainment.  The individuals who suffer from an opioid use disorder are no longer in control of their lives but instead they are owned by a “master” that pushes them to find the next “fix”, regardless of the consequences. 

In October 2017, President Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency – that includes El Paso County.  As the community considers how best to respond to the crisis it is critical to acknowledge that the crisis is local and ultimately it is up to the community to respond now – not wait for an outside entity.

To achieve the goal of decreasing the number of people affected by opioid use and misuse, including overdose deaths, as well as the societal impact on El Paso County, there is an urgent need to develop a countywide action plan to implement solutions. Development and implementation of this plan will require: 

Systems and key stakeholders coming together to work collaboratively within the supportive frameworks adopted by the CPAR 

Development of a common agenda based on the results from the Community Readiness Assessment

Identification of metrics to measure success

Identification and implementation of mutually reinforcing activities

Continuous communication that fosters trust among community members

Identification of funding sources to support capacity building, implementation of interventions and evaluation of community efforts

Confronting the Opioid Crisis: All Hands on Deck Are Needed

A public health emergency requires multi-faceted response efforts.  There is not a silver bullet that will take care of the problem.  Instead, a silver buckshot approach is needed.  Representatives from the following sectors are encouraged to answer the call to action:

Government

Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice

Treatment and Prevention

Educators and Community

For more information contact Mary Steiner, Community Program Manager mary.steiner@ppchp.org or call 719-632-5094.