Colo. Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention celebrates early successes, looks to increase impact
by Robert Valuck, PhD, RPh, FNAP
The Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention was created in the fall of 2013 to establish a coordinated, statewide response to the major public health problem of prescription drug abuse. The mission of the consortium is to reduce the abuse and misuse of prescription drugs in Colorado through development, coordination and implementation of policies and programs.
Work on this issue began 30 years prior through the Colorado Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, and it was this group that was responsible for advocating for the establishment of the Colorado Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) in 2005. Efforts to reduce prescription drug abuse increased dramatically in 2012 when Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper chaired a task force on reducing prescription drug abuse through the National Governors Association. NGA resources enabled stakeholders to pursue statewide strategic planning on prescription drug abuse. Completed in May 2013, the Colorado Plan to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse was handed to the Colorado Prescription Drug Task Force for implementation and the task force was renamed the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention.
Since its founding, the consortium has served as a backbone for the effort, providing infrastructure and support to link the many agencies, organizations, health professions associations and societies, task forces and programs that were addressing the prescription drug abuse problem but were doing so in relative isolation and without the benefit of an organized, coordinated approach. What began with 150 individuals has now expanded to 450 people with vast professional and lived experience.
The consortium is housed administratively in the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. This year the General Assembly passed Senate Bill 17-193 to establish a center for research into substance use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery support strategies at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. The bill appropriates $1 million to establish or expand programs for research, innovative treatments for substance use disorders, expand partnerships and collaboration throughout the state and nation, and seek federal and private resources to further research activities.
The consortium includes experts from the Anschutz Medical Campus health professional schools and colleges, and leaders from key agencies and organizations in Colorado that comprise work groups responsible for implementing the major initiatives outlined in the strategic plan. The original five initiatives were health care provider education, public awareness, safe disposal, PDMP improvements, and research/data sharing. Four more groups were added as needs arose: improving access and referrals to treatment, increasing awareness of and access to naloxone, advocating for affected friends and family, and heroin response.
Each work group is co-chaired by two experts from state agencies, community organizations or the university. The Colorado Medical Society has been an active participant and strong supporter in the consortium since the beginning and CMS-member physicians and staff are present on each work group.
Through the collective work of consortium partners we have experienced several major, early successes. Take Med Seriously is a statewide marketing campaign and public outreach effort, which includes the website
TakeMedsSeriously.org. The campaign educates consumers on safe use, safe storage and safe disposal, and provides physician practices and pharmacies with customizable handouts and other durable materials.
Sister program TakeMedsBack.org provides resources related to safe disposal. Colorado is the only state in the country that funds permanent take-back locations. The program is run through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the consortium is working to establish a drop box in every county of the state by the end of the year; currently 42 counties out of 64 are represented, with 80 boxes in the 42 counties.
Another success has come through provider education. More than 2,000 prescribers have taken online courses developed, promoted and offered in partnership with the University of Colorado, including “The Opioid Crisis: Guidelines and Tools for Chronic Pain Management,” and several hundred have taken in-person courses offered by expert faculty who travel across the state to educate their peers.
Finally, naloxone access has increased dramatically due to the work of the consortium. Currently more than 400 pharmacies and more than 125 police and sheriff’s departments have naloxone that did not have it one year ago. And thanks to a standing order written by Larry Wolk, MD, MSPH, CDPHE executive director and chief medical officer, any Colorado citizen can walk into one of more than 430 pharmacies around the state and fill a prescription to access naloxone.
Every success of the consortium can be attributed to the work of our partners. The consortium only does what the workgroups say we should do and the workgroups are comprised of interested stakeholders from across the state. We’re working on a collective vision by bringing experts to the table in an open, collaborative, transparent process. We believe the best solutions are formed this way and we are excited to continue this important work. We have much more to do. We are redoubling our efforts and increasing our staff to support the work, and we look forward to continued collaboration with CMS and all of our partners. Together we will turn the tide on this problem, and make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation.
Posted in: Colorado Medicine | Initiatives | Prescription Drug Abuse