ENGLEWOOD, Colorado (CBS4) – The coronavirus pandemic is blamed for even more deaths as drug overdoses skyrocketed in Colorado in 2020. One group hopes to reduce the number in 2021 through better access to life-saving naloxone.
“Right now it’s about getting hospitals to sign up and go live and send patients home with naloxone. We need the rest of the hospital systems and hospitals in the state to do the same, ”said Dr. Donald Stader of the Colorado Naloxone Project.
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A government bill passed last year allows hospitals to reimburse the cost of delivering naloxone to people who emergency medical services believe are at high risk of overdosing.
“The timing couldn’t be more urgent. We lose good Americans every day to overdosing, ”said Dr. Stader.
According to a recent report by the CDC, the death toll in Colorado rose 43 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.
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“They are people who have cancer pain. They are people who have just had a serious acute injury and need anesthetic. Regardless of the background story, I see someone almost every shift, ”said Dr. Nick Tsipis, Associate Medical Director in the Swedish Medical Center’s ER.
HealthONE is one of the first Colorado hospital systems to have all eight emergency rooms onboard with the program to distribute more opioid reversals.
“It works on the parts of the brain to essentially restart your breathing. Naloxone binds very strongly to the parts of your brain that wake up these receptors and tell you to breathe again. And act within seconds or minutes, ”said Dr. Tsipis.
Doctors are asked to identify overdose patients who could benefit from taking naloxone at home.
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“We talk to them to find out what happened and how we can best work with the hem to keep it from evolving. To send them home with no resources, no support and no tools they need, they risk going down that path again, ”said Dr. Tsipis. “This is a big leap forward and it will save lives.”