Long fight in store against opioid abuse
Colorado’s opioid abuse problem isn’t limited to a particular population. In fact, it is striking the most vulnerable: babies who are going through withdrawal at birth, due to being exposed to opioids in-utero.
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and other members of a bipartisan task force tackling heroin addiction are working to assist such newborns, through the Caring Recovery for Infants and Babies Act, or CRIB.
The newly introduced legislation would allow residential pediatric care centers to receive reimbursement through Medicaid for neonatal abstinence treatment syndrome, according to a description of the act supplied by Tipton’s office.
Emphasis is on the importance of a residential setting, where parents can receive counseling and recovery services.
“What this is about is to be able to get resources to be able to help the children,” the Cortez Republican said Thursday.
Tipton was moved by a visit to Park View Hospital in Pueblo, which treats babies addicted to opioids or other drugs. Neonatal abstinence syndrome is up 91 percent since 2012, Tipton said earlier, through his office.
“It’s just devastating to (hospitals) to see the impact on kids,” he said Thursday.
Neonatal abstinence syndrome develops shortly after birth and is marked by loud, high-pitched crying, sweating and gastrointestinal problems, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
The CRIB Act is but one prong of the task force’s legislative agenda for this session.
“The entire series of bills we have are dealing with getting resources to the families and back to our local communities,” Tipton said.
“It’s something that’s obviously very important.”
Among the bills the bipartisan team have introduced is the Stem the Tide of overdose Prevalence from Opiate Drugs Act, or STOP OD.
The act would allow the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to award grants to increase educational efforts in order to prevent opioid abuse; promote treatment of addicts; and to promote the understanding of addiction.
Opioid addiction — from abuse of prescribed medication, as well as heroin — has beset the state for the past few years. Montrose County, which in 2016 recorded four opioid or heroin overdose deaths, is no exception.
Addiction is devastating, Tipton said.
“You have a lot of people who become unwittingly addicted. You get prescribed an opioid and the next thing you know, you may have an addiction,” he said.
Prescription drugs can indeed act as a gateway to heroin and that circumstance is prevalent in the region, however, people have also begun turning to heroin for other reasons, the 7th Judicial Drug Task Force said last month.
Tipton two years ago launched a series of roundtable discussions in communities affected by opioid addiction and heroin.
“At that time, the two hotspots the Drug Enforcement Administration identified were in Pueblo — and in Delta, which surprised me,” Tipton said.
“I visited them with local law enforcement officers throughout the district. I inquired if they were seeing abuse in opioids.”
At the time, officials had just begun seeing opioid abuse pick up, he said.
“Their view of it was it was like the point of a spear — once you see it, you know there’s more coming,” Tipton said.
“This is becoming a real issue for communities across the country. It doesn’t know a geographic location, a social boundary, an economic boundary. It crosses all boundaries in terms of the impacts.”
The “spear tip” officials noted points to a protracted battle in store, the congressman indicated.
The legislative task force idea is to marshal resources, create awareness and start what will be “a very, very long challenge for the country,” Tipton said.
“It’s going to be long-term. There are real pain management issues out there as well that need to be addressed.”