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Fentanyl bill could cause increase in demand for treatment services

A bill heading to the governor’s desk for a signature would require someone to seek treatment if convicted of a felony-related offense.

 9:48 PM MDT May 12, 2022

DENVER — A bill that would toughen penalties for possessing fentanyl is off to the governor’s desk for a signature. In some cases, it would also require someone to seek treatment if convicted.

One provider in Denver is already slammed, and they worry the state won’t have enough space to meet the extra demand.

The challenges of a pandemic are bringing an influx of people to Mile High Recovery Center. Many of them are seeking help because of an addiction to opioids.

“We treat about 40% of our population as an opiate or opioid substance user and within that almost all of them have abused fentanyl,” said Sarah Zubrin, Chief Clinical Officer for Mile High Recovery Center.

Zubrin said within the last year she’s noticed more clients are hooked on fentanyl. Some are purposefully seeking out the lethal drug because it’s a cheaper and quicker high.

“It is scary,” she said. “Fentanyl is the only substance where literally that is your last use.”

The fentanyl bill will give law enforcement tools to require treatment for people with a substance use disorder. People in possession of any amount of fentanyl compound will be assessed for a substance use disorder. Individuals assessed as having a substance use disorder will have to complete mandatory treatment.

Zubrin wants addicts to get help but she’s worried there won’t be enough of it available.

“The Medicaid system in Colorado, specifically, is not designed to support a large influx of people needing treatment for substance use,” she said. “At the residential level of treatment, which is really where you go in and detox and you stabilize enough to go back into the community, the city of Denver has about three.”

She said the waitlists could be months long at facilities that accept Medicaid because there just aren’t enough beds to meet demand. If more people are ordered by a court to seek treatment, Zubrin fears the situation could get worse.

“If there is not enough access to services, we are going to continue to see an increase in use,” she said.

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