Gunnison County officials concerned about increased opioid abuse amid pandemic

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GUNNISON, Colo. (KDVR) — The Gunnison County Consortium hosted a virtual town hall Wednesday to address the community’s response to the opioid crisis. Organizers say it’s even more important to address opioid use and addiction during the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event featured a 30-minute video produced by Brian Sullivan. It was shot before the pandemic began. The videographer says the subject was very personal for him.

“I had a problem with opioids at one point after my daughter died,” Sullivan said. 

He is doing much better now, but admits the hardships of the pandemic are tough for him. 

“COVID, it’s been really hard for me personally. I have anxiety, depression,” he explained.

Experts say he’s not alone. Kari Commerford is the juvenile services director at Gunnison County. 

“We have a seen an increase of mental health, and substance use disorder, and they compound each other,” Commerford said.

Commerford says the Gunnison Valley Health hospital had almost as many opioid overdose patients admitted in April as it did in the entire six months before that.

“There are many people who are coming in highly anxious, and experiencing a lot of depression, and are experiencing increase in substance use,” she said before adding, “We have had an increase of requests to help support the police department with Naloxone, which is the overdose medication.”

Commerford says the pandemic has led to ongoing stresses about things like money, jobs, housing and parenting. She hopes the discussions can educate the community about addiction, prevention, treatment and recovery.

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