The student publication of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado

The Arapahoe Pinnacle

The student publication of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado

The Arapahoe Pinnacle

The student publication of Arapahoe Community College in Colorado

The Arapahoe Pinnacle

    Colorado Launches a Drug User Health Hub Project to Prevent the Spread of Hepatitis

    Service bundles give drug users access to needed supplies

    The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has recently partnered with Findhelp, a social care network, to create a Drug User Health Hub Project that aims to prevent the transmission of hepatitis in Colorado. Since injecting drug users have the greatest risk of contracting the disease, the CDC-funded project plans to improve access to preventative resources and treatment services in areas that are highly impacted by substance abuse.

    Plagued by an overdose epidemic, Colorado reached an all time high of 1,887 fatal overdoses in 2021. In analyzing these increasing casualties, the Department of Public Health determined that people who inject drugs fail to seek medical care when necessary due to financial constraints and a lack of treatment options. When they do seek medical care, they are often discharged without being connected to preventative services.

    The CDC’s publication “Drug Overdose Mortality by State” revealed a steady increase in overdose deaths in Colorado since 1999. There was a sharp increase in overdose deaths in 2020 with 1,492 fatalities.

    In order to ameliorate the accessibility of resources, the Drug User Health Hub Project is creating “service bundles” for injecting drug users. These bundles will provide access to medical treatment, sterile injection paraphernalia, disease testing, naloxone, naloxone training, vaccinations and more. Providers of the bundles will include local public health agencies, health care providers, local law enforcement, the Veterans Benefits Administration, jails, hospitals and other institutions. The Regional Provider Network will span over a dozen counties in Southern Colorado, the region most impacted by substance abuse.

    The project will also involve educational services and outreach programs for drug users. Juli Shamash, president of the Drug Awareness Foundation, founded the organization with the goal of educating the public to prevent addiction before it can begin.

    “You never know if you’re going to be addicted until you are,” she said. “Once you become addicted…it’s a disease that stays with you forever. You can go into remission, but you always have a chance of relapsing.”

    Shamash travels to high schools and colleges to teach students about the dangers of fentanyl and how to use harm reduction tools like naloxone and testing strips.

    Arapahoe Community College’s Dean of Students offers counseling services to students struggling with substance abuse. Apart from the services provided by the college and the Drug User Health Hub, there are a myriad of local resources available to drug users in the community.

    Referral Resources: 

    • Mental Health Center, Arapahoe, 5500 S. Sycamore St., Littleton, 303.797.8858; emergency line 303.730.3303
    • Mental Health Center, Jefferson, 5265 Vance, Arvada, 303.425.0300 (Jefferson County residents only)
    • Professional Psychology Center at University of Denver – 303.871.3626
    • Alcoholics Anonymous – 303.975.8677 or 303.322.4440 (24-hour hotline)
    • Narcotics Anonymous – 303.832.DRUG (3784)
    • Focus on Recovery, Helpline – 1.800.234.0420
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    About the Contributor
    Hayden Chedid, Reporter
    Hayden Chedid (she/her) is currently obtaining her Associate of Arts with a concentration in Journalism. After obtaining her Bachelor's in Journalism, she hopes to work in news broadcasting.
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