Colorado is set to receive more than $6.2 million in grant funds to help combat the opioid crisis.

The Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney announced in a Wednesday press release the state will be given $6,227,854 in funds as part of National Substance Abuse Prevention Month.

“This comes at a time when the Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office is taking a comprehensive approach to fighting illegally dispensed prescription drugs,” the release said.

The DOJ issued more than $320 million nationwide to address the opioid crisis.

“The unprecedented funding will directly help those most impacted by the deadliest drug crisis in American history, including victims, children, families, and first responders,” the release said.

More than 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017, which is a jump from the 64,000 overdose deaths the previous year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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“The majority of these deaths can be attributed to opioids, including illicit fentanyl and its analogues,” the release said.

This month marks two drug prevention events: Red Ribbon Week and National Prescription Drug Takeback Day.

Each year, Red Ribbon Week occurs Oct. 23-31. The event aims to “encourages students, parents, schools, and communities to promote drug-free lifestyles.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Oct. 27 and provides “an opportunity for Americans to prevent overdose deaths and drug addictions before they start.”

Funds awarded include:

  • Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Site-based Program to support the nation’s law enforcement officers and other first responders: The city of Longmont — $499,922
  • Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Site-based Program to provide staffing and treatment resources within the nation’s jails and upon reentry to the community: Boulder County — $861,569
  • Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Site-based Program to support public safety by information sharing by leveraging information from a variety of public health and safety data sources: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment — $1 million
  • Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program to facilitate collaborations among criminal justice, mental health and substance abuse programs: CO-MO Boulder County — $346,512
  • Enhancing Community Responses To the Opioid Crisis: Serving Our Youngest Crime Victims to help youth impacted by the opioids crisis: Illuminate Colorado —$749,491
  • Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program: Southern Ute Indian Tribe —$327,822
  • Veterans Treatment Courts: Colorado Judicial Department — $1,581,248
  • Drug Treatment Courts to Enhance Existing Family Drug Courts: Colorado Judicial Department — $861,290

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado “has taken a novel approach to identify and pursue those prescribers and pharmacies whose abuses contribute to the opioid epidemic in Colorado,” according to the release.

The office created an internal Opioid Initiative Working Group, which includes attorneys and staff members from the criminal and civil divisions.

“The Colorado U.S. Attorney’s Office is a national leader in using data to identify those in the opioid supply chain who cause the most harm to our citizens, and bringing them to justice,” U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer said in the release.

Additionally, the office is working on a project “to gather, combine, and analyze extensive data to identify unlawful conduct by prescribers and pharmacies.”

The Opioid Initiative Working Group focuses on collecting and analyzing data to help identify patterns of overprescribing and drug diversion, according to release.

“A primary goal is to use data to determine potential targets whose conduct may be unlawful and where pursuit of that target would have a significant impact on opioid abuse in Colorado,” the release said. “The group has worked to identify ‘red flags’ in the data that might show that a prescriber or pharmacy was writing or filling a medically unnecessary prescription.”

So far, the data analysis has allowed the state to identify prescribers and pharmacies that fill the largest number of pills for opioids, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, or fentanyl.

“The [AG] has been resolute in the fight against the drug crisis in America,” the release said. “The [DOJ] assigned more than 300 federal prosecutors to U.S. Attorney’s offices and hired more than 400 DEA task force officers; announced the formation of Operation Synthetic Opioid Surge, a new program to reduce the supply of deadly synthetic opioids in high impact areas; and created a new data analytics program called the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit to assist 12 prosecutors sent to drug ‘hot spot districts.’”

The DOJ charged more than 3,000 defendants with trafficking in heroin, fentanyl, or prescription drugs in fiscal year 2017, according to release.

The agency also “announced the first-ever indictments of Chinese nationals for fentanyl trafficking, and scheduled variants of fentanyl to prevent illicit drug labs from circumventing the law.”

Visit the Office of Justice of Programs website at ojp.gov for more information.