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Posted on: June 9, 2022

Moving Forward Together: The Opioid Crisis

Lesley Dalhkember headshot with news image text

Many of us have been touched in one way or another by the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic. The numbers are daunting. Between 2018 and 2020, drug overdoses statewide exceeded more than 3,500 with opioid overdose deaths increasing by 54 percent between 2019 and 2020. In 2020, overdoses involving fentanyl – a powerful opioid increasingly found in counterfeit heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine – made up 68 percent of all opioid-related deaths. Jefferson County alone saw a 59 percent increase in the number of drug-related overdose deaths between 2019 to 2020.

Too many Colorado families and communities have been devastated by opioid overdoses and addiction. I was part of working group of local government leaders who partnered for 18 months with Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser to create a ground-breaking framework that ensures opioid settlement dollars are largely allocated to local communities for prevention, treatment, and recovery. Colorado is expected to receive $400 million in opioid settlement dollars. Read more about the historic settlement.

These dollars will be distributed to 19 regions, local governments, the state, and infrastructure needs. Our region – which is made up of Clear Creek, Gilpin, and Jefferson counties – is expected to receive $1.3 million annually over 18 years. The three counties and their municipalities also will receive direct funding from the settlement. For example, Lakewood will receive $1.3 million and Arvada just under $1 million – both over 18 years.

This is a one-time opportunity to begin to transform how we’re tackling the opioid epidemic in our communities though education, prevention, and treatment. The Gateway to the Rockies Opioid Council (GROC), which I chair, kicked off its first meeting earlier this year and members include commissioners from the three counties and representatives from municipalities, public health, human services, and law enforcement.

On June 23, GROC is hosted The Opioid Crisis: Moving Forward Together – a day-long, kick-off conference at Red Rocks Community College to:

  • Hear directly from those whose lives have been touched by the crisis
  • Learn more about the impact of the epidemic in our communities
  • Identify what’s working to address the epidemic and where the gaps lie
  • Explore how best to leverage opioid settlement dollars to get results 

Colorado Public Radio’s Vic Vela will host a panel of those in recovery and family members and AG Phil Weiser will talk about our region’s collaboration with the state. We will do a lot of listening too, seeking input from participants on how they want to engage in the design of the region’s two-year plan. 

We have a long road ahead, but I’m confident that working together, we will put the settlement dollars to good use to help our community. 

If you’re interested in more information about the conference, please reach out to Chief of Staff Deb Churchill or email me directly.


To learn more about GROC, visit our website or, to learn more about what’s happening at the state level, visit this website.

To learn more about the Jefferson County Commissioners, visit our website. The Board of County Commissioners’ public hearings are held on most Tuesdays at 8:00 a.m. and we invite you to join us for public comment. Click here for details.

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