DENVER — As Colorado continues its fight against the opioid epidemic, some areas are more affected than others and are now receiving much-needed help from the state.
Fremont County, for example, ranks among the top 10 counties in Colorado with the highest opioid death rate per capita.
It’s one of the reasons the Colorado Opioid Abatement Council approved a $500,000 grant for Fremont County, the Boys and Girls Club of Fremont County, and various organizations that try to prevent drug abuse. . The money is part of the $720 million Colorado will receive from the $26 billion that settlement states have won against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
“It’s absolutely vital,” Graeme Lawson, director of the Fremont Boys and Girls Club, told Denver7 after learning the club would receive the grant. “Children don’t have access to accurate or available information about the dangers of these drugs, and these types of funds allow us to establish education programs about the dangers of these drugs. They allow us to establish programs for children who might already be involved with drugs like this and give them access to some mental health care and addiction treatment.
The club will also use the money to expand its building to include a daycare center, classrooms and a basketball court. It’s “all nine yards dedicated to making sure young people in Fremont County know they have a safe, modern place to spend their time,” Lawson said.
Colorado awards $500,000 opioid settlement to Boys and Girls Club of Fremont County and others
The two branches of the Boys and Girls Club of Chaffee County will also receive $500,000.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said providing these programs with additional resources is intentional and strategic.
“As we think about making these investments and the money we’re bringing in, prevention and education programs need to be at the heart of our strategy,” Weiser said. “We know that young people who start using dangerous drugs and become addicted can struggle for years and years, or even their entire lives. By helping young people adopt healthy habits by preventing them from turning to substances and developing addictions, we will improve people’s lives.
The $26 billion opioid settlement is the second largest legal settlement behind the $246 million multi-state tobacco settlement of 1998.
Research shows that only about three percent of the annual tobacco settlement was distributed to prevention and cessation programs.
“In Colorado, like in other states, we have made sure that 100% of all this money, all $720 million, will go to solving the opioid crisis. Unlike the tobacco situation, the money will not be diverted for other purposes,” Weiser said. “We’re going to make sure every dollar spent is made public so people can see how much money we’re putting into this important outreach and education work.”
The money is expected to be distributed over the next 18 years.
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