Today, Aug 31, is International Overdose Awareness Day, a day to remember the people who have died, acknowledge the grief of their friends and family, and to continue advocating for an end to these preventable deaths.
Our nation is in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis and Colorado has not been spared. Many of these deaths are due to an increase in the drug supply of the synthetic opioid, fentanyl. Statewide, overdose deaths increased by 38% from 2019 to 2020, with Denver experiencing a 64% increase in fatal overdoses during this same time period. As many of our child fatality review team members and coordinators know too well, this health crisis is also taking the lives of so many Colorado children.
You can listen to an interview with Lisa Raville, the executive director of Denver's Harm Reduction Action Center, on today's episode of the City Cast Denver podcast (16 minutes). Lisa discusses the driving factors of the overdose crisis, the toll it's taking on people who use drugs and the people who love them, the deadly impact of stigma, and prevention measures that we can take to end these deaths. As Lisa says, "everyone is somebody's someone."
One piece of the prevention puzzle is education that is fact-based, non-stigmatizing, and informed by and co-created with young people. The Drug Policy Alliance has a free, harm reduction-based drug education curriculum for high school teachers called Safety First: Real Drug Education for Teens.
The Laced and Lethal campaign out of King County, WA is an example of a campaign to educate youth about the dangers of fentanyl and the importance of carrying naloxone to reverse overdoses and save lives.