The Colorado Health Foundation has invested more than $1.5 million to advance Colorado’s efforts to fight substance abuse and the opioid epidemic plaguing the state.

The grant supports the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, housed at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

Robert Valuck, PhD, a professor at the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science, directs the consortium, which was established by Gov. John Hickenlooper in 2013 to coordinate the state’s response to the misuse of medications including opioid painkillers.

Professor Rob Valuck, PhD, of the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences
Professor Rob Valuck, PhD, of the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

“Our mission is to reduce the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs in Colorado through policy work, programs and partnerships throughout the state,” Valuck said. “This tremendous support from the Colorado Health Foundation will speed our efforts to create lifesaving change throughout our communities and to stem the rising tide of opioid abuse in Colorado.”

Since the Colorado Consortium’s establishment five years ago, this innovative collaboration has leveraged state and institutional investments to attract more than $30 million to advance its collective mission.  The Consortium and its staff have reached 19 of Colorado’s 64 counties through partnerships with state agencies, organizations and community coalitions, and have elevated Colorado as a leader in successful community engagement for opioid addiction prevention.

“The Consortium led by Dr. Valuck has laid a strong foundation and has had early success in addressing the opioid epidemic,” said Ralph J. Altiere, Dean of the CU Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.  “The Colorado Health Foundation investment will help us build on these successes and make a major impact on this epidemic in Colorado and nationally.”

The Colorado Consortium’s achievements include launching a statewide TakeMedsSeriously public awareness campaign, installing medication safe disposal boxes in 36 counties, distributing 2,500 lifesaving naloxone kits to first responders in high-risk counties, and training 2,500 health care providers about safe prescribing and pain management practices. This grant from the Foundation enables the Colorado Consortium to further expand its reach throughout the state and to build a model of prevention that is replicable nationwide.

“Prescription drug abuse is not just a Colorado problem. It is a national epidemic,” said Karen McNeil-Miller, president and CEO of the Foundation. “We are interested in helping change the destructive trajectory of this epidemic and want to ensure that future efforts spearheaded by the Colorado Consortium are as impactful as possible.”

Combined with a $1 million grant from the state of Colorado, this funding from the Foundation will accelerate efforts to combat the growing substance abuse crisis through a Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, established last May at CU Anschutz as a result of Senate Bill 17-193 to build on the Colorado Consortium’s successes in prevention, education and research.

CU Anschutz Medical Campus Chancellor Donald M. Elliman, Jr. said the university is committed to leveraging the momentum built through the consortium and the center to help Colorado effectively address the opioid epidemic.

“Addressing the opioid epidemic and preventing substance abuse are top priorities, not only for the CU Anschutz Medical Campus but for the entire state of Colorado,” he said. “The Colorado Health Foundation’s investment in this effort represents a critical milestone in our progress, and I am confident that we will build upon our shared commitment and early successes to save lives.”