Summit County takes action following Colorado’s deadliest opioid overdose year in history

In 2021, the GRANITE enforcement team seized 70 pounds of fentanyl along the I-70 corridor running through Eagle County. The fentanyl was found exclusively in counterfeit oxycodone M30 pills, like the ones pictured above. Summit County officials are working to help reverse a recent spike in opioid deaths by promoting awareness among Summit County residents and educating them on recovery and treatment resources.
GRANITE/Courtesy photo

Opioid deaths in Colorado increased in 2021 by 20% compared to 2020 statistics, making 2021 the deadliest year documented in the state, according to a news release from Summit County government. 

In response, officials in Summit County are taking extra steps as they observe International Overdose Awareness Day, which was on Aug. 31, by promoting awareness among Summit County adults — and teenagers — and educating them on recovery and treatment resources. 

The Summit County Public Health Clinic announced they would be offering opioid-reversing supplies like naloxone through their Frisco office — free of charge. 

Another piece of the support system Summit County is building includes the Front Range Clinic, which opened in February of this year across the hall from the Community Care Clinic. The organization provides Summit County with another resource for addiction treatment, including various types of treatment services for both alcohol and opioid addiction. 

For opioid addiction, the clinic offers two options for medical assisted treatment: buprenorphine/Suboxone, and naltrexone/Vivitrol, according to the Substance Use Prevention webpage on the Summit County Government website. 

The preventative and resourceful efforts do not stop with adults, however.

Along with additional treatment options, the county announced that Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons will be presenting on Sept. 22 at Summit County High School about opioid use prevention and Naloxone. 

Tamara Pogue, Summit County commissioner, said Summit County’s resort and party environment — that can, at times, involve substance use — has potential to impact local youth. 

FitzSimons offered similar thoughts.

“We are kidding ourselves if we don’t think high schoolers are engaging in drug and alcohol abuse,” FitzSimons said. 

The Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, a survey that was conducted across Colorado in the fall of 2021, measured statistics on alcohol and drug usage among youth. 

Of Region 12 of Colorado — which encapsulates Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Pitkin and Summit counties — about 19% of 16-year-old students binge drank within 30 days. The study reports that 23% of 17-year-old students and about 30% of students 18 or older binge drank within 30 days. 

Furthermore, about 17% of students in the same region who are 16 years old said they believe it is “sort of easy or very easy to get prescription drugs without a prescription.” About 16% of 17-year-old students and about 12% of students ages 1 or older believe the same, according to the study.

As a parent, Pogue added it’s important to her to be informed enough to protect her children and to also arm them with enough information to make informed and safe decisions. 

In that vein, FitzSimons wants to help high schoolers understand how to stay safe and protect themselves from laced substances. He gave an example. 

“You and I are at a party together, and John Doe over there is selling fentanyl pills. And you and I each buy a fake hydrocodone pill from the same dealer out of the same hand, same pocket. You take one and get high. I take one and drop dead.” FitzSimons said. “It’s because there’s no quality control about how much fentanyl is in that pill. So it’s Russian roulette.”

Therefore, FitzSimons said he is pushing the effort to expand access to free naloxone to Summit High School. 

Pogue said many people see Summit County as, simply, a beautiful place.

However, “I think, for many people, it’s difficult to understand some of the other things that happen here,” she said. “Summit County is not immune to the challenges you see in other communities.”

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