The Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health has awarded funding to 17 county jails, including in Pueblo and El Paso counties, to continue or initiate medication-assisted treatment for people with opioid use disorder.

The state is awarding nearly $1.9 million in total to the 17 county sheriff’s offices that applied for MAT funding through Sept. 29, 2020. MAT combines medication with behavioral therapy. OBH has funded medication-assisted treatment services in five of the 17 county jails: Boulder, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson and Pueblo. Nearly 500 people received medication-assisted treatment before or upon release from jail through this funding since 2017.

“In Colorado we continue to increase the availability of MAT services statewide for those who need it, including treatment for people who are incarcerated, in many cases as a result of their addiction,” Robert Werthwein, director of the Office of Behavioral Health, said in an email. “We know that the risk of opioid overdose drastically increases after a period of abstinence such as incarceration, and intervening at this juncture is key to our efforts to reduce overdoses.”

The 17 counties being funded and dollar amounts are:

  • Arapahoe $150,000
  • Boulder $150,000
  • Conejos $60,000
  • Denver $150,000
  • Douglas $150,000
  • Eagle $60,000
  • El Paso $150,000
  • Fremont $150,000
  • Garfield $100,000
  • Gilpin $60,000
  • Jefferson $60,000
  • La Plata $60,000
  • Larimer $150,000
  • Mesa $150,000
  • Moffat $60,000
  • Pueblo $150,000
  • Summit $60,000

The release said a recent study in North Carolina found that in the first two weeks after being released from prison, former inmates were 40 times more likely to die of an opioid overdose than others. When looking at heroin-specific overdoses in the same population, the study found that formerly incarcerated individuals’ likelihood of overdose death increased to 74 times the norm within the first two weeks after release.

OBH is providing the funding through the State Opioid Response Grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and due to recently passed legislation (SB 19-008), Colorado has ensured this funding can continue after the grant period is over.