Senate President Leroy Garcia's bill now headed to the House

Senate President Leroy Garcia's bill to expand the medication-assisted treatment pilot program that's currently offered in Pueblo and Routt counties was passed unanimously by the Senate this week.

Senate Bill 19-001 would expand the medication-assisted treatment pilot program to 10 more counties across Colorado by providing $5 million in funding over two years.

The bill will now move to the Colorado House of Representatives for consideration.

MAT is an approach that helps opioid addicts by providing replacement medication such as Vivitrol and Suboxone as well as ongoing counseling and other services. In 2018, nearly 700 Pueblo County residents dealing with opioid addiction got help through the pilot program that state lawmakers authorized here and in Routt County through 2017 legislation that set aside $500,000 to begin the efforts in both counties.

Garcia wants to broaden the help to create MAT programs in the additional counties, including the underserved San Luis Valley.

In 2017, there were 558 opioid overdose deaths in Colorado both from prescription opioids and illegal opioids such as heroin, according to information provided in the bill.

"The Senate came together to pass a bill that will save lives by helping Coloradans who are struggling in the face of the opioid epidemic get the treatment they need," Garcia said in a statement following the passage of his bill by the Senate. "We have seen incredible success from the pilot program, and by expanding it to additional high-need counties, we can help even more Coloradans who are battling drug abuse and addiction."

In addition to expanding and increasing funding for the MAT program, Garcia's bill would also shift the administration of the program from the College of Nursing to the center for research into substance abuse disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery support strategies, expanding the work that the College of Nursing is doing and adding more disciplines and communities from around the state.

rseverance@chieftain.com

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