Healthcare leader calls for better education, prevention

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stethoscopeDespite the surge in medical marijuana dispensaries across Colorado, it appears to be a benign issue for those who treat substance abuse and other behavioral health needs on the Western Slope. However, local healthcare leaders hope concerns over this will translate into greater funding for education and prevention efforts around substance abuse as a whole.
“So far, this has been a non-issue for us,” said Sharon Raggio, chief executive officer, Colorado West Regional Mental Health. “Our center does not issue prescriptions for medical marijuana and we have not yet seen a spike in demand for substance abuse services. It remains to be seen if a spike in treatment will result.”
As Raggio explained, the issue is really the same with alcohol, drugs or tobacco. Just because a substance is legal or prescribed, it can be abused. It’s also important to remember that treatment for substance abuse is very effective when properly funded and integrated with behavioral health services.
“Substance abuse services in Colorado — including education and prevention — are severely under-funded,” Raggio said. “In fact, Colorado’s funding toward substance abuse treatment is last in the country.”
Research has shown that individuals who receive integrated treatment for their co-occurring disorders have a 50-60 percent success rate, as compared to 15 percent when the disorders are treated separately. Behavioral health treatment for substance abuse or mental health is just as effective as the treatment for other chronic diseases in the health care world (such as asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure/cholesterol). Unfortunately, 50 percent of Americans with co-occurring serious mental illness and substance use disorders receive no care, while 45 percent receive poor care, and only 5 percent receive evidence-based care.
Colorado West Regional Mental Health serves 10 northwestern Colorado counties, including Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Mesa, Moffat, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit. For more information, visit