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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) — Medical experts across Colorado and the nation are battling an epidemic alongside the COVID-19 pandemic: opioid addiction.

In Colorado, fentanyl overdoses have surged since the pandemic and are eight times higher than in 2019.

Dr. Donald Stader, an emergency room and addiction doctor at Swedish Medical Center said they are doing all they can to help curb opioid addiction.

“We have to give people an off-ramp,” Stader said.

Stader, who founded the Naloxone Project, said medical staff is trained to spot the signs of addiction and send home naloxone with discharged patients who may be struggling. 

Naloxone is a lifesaving tool in an overdose.

“Oftentimes, the first (opioid) exposure is through the medical system,” Stader said.

In recent months, Strader said the practice has expanded to its maternity ward, and an estimated 100 patients have been sent home with naloxone since.

Stader noted Swedish Medical Center has drastically reduced using opioids to treat pain in its ER, curbing its opioid use by 70%.

Stader said Swedish Medical Center has connected more than 200 patients with peer support specialists since 2019. The peer support-specialist effort is a pilot program connecting those who may be struggling with those who have overcome addiction.