ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) - The coronavirus pandemic is being blamed for even more deaths as drug overdoses skyrocketed in Colorado during 2020. One group hopes to decrease the number in 2021 with more access to life saving Naloxone.
"Right now, it's all about getting hospitals to sign up and implement this and to start sending patients home with Naloxone. We need the rest of the hospitals systems and hospitals in the state to do the same," said Dr. Donald Stader with the Colorado Naloxone Project.
A state bill passed last year allows hospitals to be reimbursed for the cost of giving out naloxone to people Emergency Room Physicians believe are high risk to overdose.
"The timing could not be more urgent. We're losing good Americans every day to overdose," Dr. Stader said.
A recent report from the CDC says Colorado saw a 43 percent increase in deaths in 2020 compared to 2019.
"They're folks who have cancer pain. They're folks who just had a severe acute injury who need narcotics. No matter what the backstory I see someone almost every single shift," said Dr. Nick Tsipis, the Associate Medical Director at the Swedish Medical Center Emergency Room.
HealthONE has become one of the first hospital systems in Colorado getting all 12 of its emergency rooms onboard with the program to distribute more of the opioid reversal agent.
"It acts on the parts of the brain to essentially restart your breathing. Naloxone binds really strongly to the parts of your brain that wake up those receptors and tell you to breathe again. And acts within seconds or minutes," Dr. Tsipis said.
Doctors are encouraged to identify overdose patients who could benefit from taking home Naloxone.
"We talk to them to figure out what happened and how we can best work with hem to prevent it moving forward. To discharge them home without resources, without support, without the tools they need is to risk them of going right down that path again," Dr. Tsipis said. "That is a huge leap forward and it's going to save lives."
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