Opioid Crisis in Colorado: The BHA's Role, Research and Resources


Across Colorado and the United States, rates of opioid addiction and overdose are devastating communities, families and individuals. Colorado recorded 543 opioid overdose deaths in 2018 from both prescription opioids and illegal opioids such as heroin. The opioid epidemic is a result of a number of challenges, including a sharp and steady increase in opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone prescribed for patients by their doctors, limited access to treatment especially in rural areas, increased use of heroin and injection drug use, deadly additives to the heroin supply such as fentanyl and carfentanil, stigma and the cost of treatment.

Nationwide, an estimated 11.8 million people misused opioids in 2016, including 11.5 million pain reliever misusers and 948,000 heroin users, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. A White House Council of Economic Advisers analysis said the opioid epidemic cost between $293.9 and $622.1 billion in 2015, with a preferred estimate of $504 billion.

The Behavioral Health Administration provides oversight of and purchases opioid treatment services, including traditional substance use disorder treatment and opioid treatment programs (OTPs). The BHA provides some oversight for office-based opioid treatment (OBOT), and training support for primary care providers who prescribe or would like to prescribe buprenorphine. In May 2018, the Colorado Department of Human Services' Office of Behavioral Health launched Lift The Label, a public awareness campaign that strives to remove damaging labels and stigmas that prevent those with opioid addiction from seeking effective treatment.

What are Opioids?

What are Opioids?

Opioids are a class of drug that includes illegal drugs like heroin and prescription drugs or painkillers such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine and many others. Prescription opioids are often prescribed for short periods of time to address acute pain, but can lead to addiction or chemical dependence in as few as 7 days. Among people misusing the drug, most people are getting their opioids from a doctor, friend or family member. This is why Colorado and many other states are working to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions and support safe prescribing methods.

Misuse of prescription opioids can also lead into heroin use. Among heroin users in Colorado, 70 percent say they started their drug use with prescription medications. If you or a loved one is misusing prescription medications or heroin, treatment works and recovery is possible.

Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder

Medication-assisted treatment is considered the gold standard because the three types of medicine commonly used to treat opioid addiction -- methadone, buprenorphine and naltrexone -- have been found effective in clinical trials. Medication-assisted treatment (MAT), including opioid treatment programs (OTPs), combines behavioral therapy and medications to treat substance use disorders. Those receiving medications as part of their treatment are75 percent less likely to die because of addiction than those not receiving medications. To understand how medication-assisted treatment works in the brain, you can watch this short video from The Pew Charitable Trust.

Medication-assisted treatment can be found in Colorado by:

Need to find treatment outside of Colorado? Click here.

Paying for Treatment

The Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) funds treatment for individuals without insurance and pays for inpatient substance use treatment for individuals with Medicaid. Health First Colorado (Medicaid) and most commercial health insurance pay for outpatient substance use treatment, including MAT. If you cannot pay for treatment, most substance use providers use a sliding scale based on income and have financial counselors that can help you get health insurance.

Substance use providers may have a wait to get in. If you need immediate assistance, including access to a professional counselor, the Colorado Crisis Line is available 24/7. Call 1-844-493-8255 or text "TALK" to 38255.


Research on Opioids in Colorado


Resources Related to Medication-Assisted Treatment, Opioid Treatment Programs, and Opioid Use Disorders

National Resources

State Resources

  • Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies
  • Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention
  • Lift The Label Behavioral Health Administration
  • OpiRescue
  • Community Reinforcement and Family Training with Prevention (CRAFT-P)

    The Behavioral Health Administration is utilizing State Opioid Response (SOR) funding to support the friends and family members of loved ones struggling from substance use disorders. The two evidence-based practices being used to support family members and friends with an addiction include the Community Reinforcement and Family Training with Prevention (CRAFT-P) and the Incredible Years! Program. These programs are being implemented via telehealth and in-person throughout Colorado. These programs are free for participants and are supported in a group format. Both programs are being implemented on a weekly basis.
    -Find a group by city (or use the filters to search by day of the week or county)
    -Find an online CRAFT Group through We The Village, scroll down to “Find A Group To Join”

    CRAFT-P is an evidence-based program that supports the family members and friends of people struggling with substance use disorders. This behavior modification program helps loved ones of a person struggling with a substance use disorder accomplish the following goals: 1) reduce substance use within the family, 2) encourage the person struggling with substance use disorder to engage into treatment (if already engaged, encourage to stay engaged in treatment program), 3) help family members enrich their own lives through teaching self-care techniques. 
    Research has shown that seven out of ten family members who participate in the CRAFT program are successful in engaging their loved one into a treatment program. This program works across the continuum of care (prevention, treatment, recovery) and aims to collaborate with community partners and existing resources in communities. CRAFT-P is currently being implemented in a number of different settings: outpatient substance use disorder clinics, mental health centers, recovery communities, harm reduction centers, psychiatric settings, schools, and therapists with private practices. Some family graduates of the CRAFT program have become trained in this model and are now implementing groups in their communities.

    The Incredible Years! Program is an evidence-based practice focused on strengthening parenting competencies and fostering parent involvement in children’s school experiences, to promote children’s academic, social and emotional skills and reduce conduct problems. The parenting program from children 0-12 years old. 

Provider Resources

Services and Supports

Education and Training Resources




For more information about Colorado's State Targeted Response to the Opioid Crisis programs and services, please contact:

Amy Cooper, Associate Director of Adult Treatment and Recovery
Behavioral Health Administration
amy.cooper@state.co.us| 720.315.5640