From Personal Struggle, A Lawmaker Pushes Legislation To Fight Colorado’s Opioid Crisis

November 7, 2017
Photo: AC Opioid Bills Portrait - Brittany Pettersen(Nathaniel Minor/CPR News)
State Rep. Brittany Pettersen is fighting opioid addiction in Colorado in part because of the struggles of her mother, Stacy.

According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 912 people in the state died from overdoses in 2016; of that total, 300 overdosed on opioids. Heroin was the cause of death in another 228 cases.

"Everyone knows someone who's been affected by this," says state Rep. Brittany Pettersen, a Democrat from Lakewood.

Pettersen speaks from experience; her mother, Stacy, has fought opioid and heroin addictions for almost 30 years. At one point, Brittany had Stacy involuntarily committed in an attempt to help her recovery.

The chairwoman of a 10-person bipartisan committee which will present a package of opioid bills in the next legislative session, Brittany Pettersen joined Colorado Matters with her mother to discuss Colorado's opioid crisis and their personal journey.

Included among the proposed bills:

  • Allow Denver to create a supervised injection facility. Drug users could shoot up under the supervision of health care staff.
  • With specific exceptions, limits some opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply and one seven-day refill.
  • Takes $2.5 million annually from the state's marijuana tax cash fund to be used, in part, to award scholarships to addiction counselors.