The La Plata County Board of County Commissioners has committed $331,187 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to an opioid risk reduction program that San Juan Basin Public Health will administer in coordination with other community partners.
The program is designed to respond to a recent increase in drug use and overdose incidents in Southwest Colorado, which have had far-reaching impacts on the community. The opioid risk reduction program will respond to the findings of a recent needs assessment of people who use or inject drugs by providing access to overdose prevention supplies, including opioid overdose reversal medication and fentanyl test strips. It will also be used to distribute clean syringes to people who inject drugs. The overarching goal of the program is to provide education and referral to primary care, mental health care, and recovery resources.
“SJBPH is extraordinarily grateful that La Plata County is committing American Rescue Plan funding to reduce public health risks in our communities. We know that during the public health crisis due to COVID over the last few years, we’ve also seen steep increases in substance use and mental health needs. This collaborative program is an important step to save lives in our communities,” said Liane Jollon, SJBPH executive director.
Alongside increased overdose incidents, there has been a parallel rise in HIV cases in La Plata County, doubling from 2019 to 2020. People who inject drugs have an increased risk of spreading communicable diseases and evidence shows that harm reduction programs can help prevent the spread of HIV, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases. People who utilize risk reduction programs are also five times more likely to seek treatment for substance use disorders than those who do not.
La Plata County’s funding will extend over 18 months while SJBPH seeks additional funding sources. The program will involve partnerships with Manna, law enforcement, government agency partners, as well as other local organizations.
This use of American Rescue Plan Act funds aligns with the priorities established by the Board of County Commissioners, which conducted community input sessions with county residents and organizations to determine how best to distribute approximately $10.9 million in funds intended to offset the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
San Juan Basin Public Health is a local public health agency, governed by a seven-member local Board of Health, serving all residents of La Plata and Archuleta counties. For over 70 years, San Juan Basin Public Health has improved the health and environment of the Southwest Colorado community.
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