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Denver (KDVR) — Colorado has seen a 30% increase in overdoses from illicit drugs in the last year during the pandemic.

Now HealthONE and Centura Health have signed on to the Colorado Naloxone Project.

The group says the goal is to make Colorado the first state in the country in which every hospital identifies patients at risk of an opioid overdose and sends them home with naloxone in hand.

The naloxone kit contains a nasal spray that can help reverse the effects of overdose.

“There’s many people at risk for overdose. Some of them are using illicit drugs, such as heroin or fentanyl, and there’s other people who are on prescription drugs, but have co-morbidities,” said Dr. Donald Stader, founder and chairman of the Colorado Naloxone Project.

He says the kits will be sent home with people who have overdosed, but also with people who are given pain medication.

“Opioids carry risk, and if you are older, if you have a history of kidney disease, or liver disease, or lung disease, your risk of overdose from a prescribed opioid is high, and wouldn’t it be great to get those patients at home as well with naloxone?” Stader said.

Unfortunately, doctors see far too many overdose cases.

“I, personally, have seen a striking increase in the number of overdoses,” said Dr. Nick Tsipis, an ER doctor at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood.

He’s glad his hospital and HealthONE are taking this on, saying it’s much better for patients to have naloxone in hand than to get a prescription.

“Of all naloxone prescriptions that are written for patients to go home and fill, only 5%of them are filled, and that’s likely due to stigma, or access issues, potentially cost, and so for all of those reasons, being able to provide a take-home naloxone pack in hand is incredibly valuable to these patients and their families,” Tsipis said.

Stader hopes other hospitals and hospital systems will sign on. The hospitals can be reimbursed by insurers.

He believes this project is not enabling drug use, it’s enabling something else.

“You are actually enabling that person to stay alive, and you are enabling their recovery,” Stader said.