1-Page: 3-Point Action Plan for the Overdose Crisis

To address the synthetic opioid crisis, Colorado must stay laser-focused on three things:  swiftly reducing overdose deaths, permanently lowering demand for synthetic opioids, and disrupting dangerous synthetic opioid manufacture and supply by major transnational criminal organizations.

Our state is already on the right track in many respects. Colorado simply needs to continue implementing, funding and scaling up existing public health programs focused on life-saving interventions, prevention, treatment, and recovery.

But we can do even more this legislative session:

We immediately save lives by expanding Good Samaritan laws that allow people to call for help when an overdose is occurring.



We throw a lifeline to local leaders on the front lines by giving them more tools to swiftly combat this crisis, including the ability to pilot overdose prevention strategies proven to work.



We disrupt supply of unsafe synthetic opioids by prioritizing all available law enforcement resources to aiding federal investigations of transnational criminal organizations, promptly mapping and investigating local overdoses, and expand pre-arrest diversion.

To succeed, however, we also must avoid the risk of undermining our own efforts by increasing criminal penalties against individuals using or supplying small amounts of synthetic opioids.

The three recommendations above are all endorsed in a groundbreaking 2022 report from the bipartisan and congressionally-mandated U.S. Commission on Synthetic Opioid Trafficking. Increasing criminal penalties, however, does not appear anywhere among the 22 key recommendations, and for good reason. Harsher prosecutions and longer punishments do nothing to reduce synthetic opioid supply or demand.

Proposals currently in front of Colorado lawmakers that would write federal "drug-induced homicide" laws into state law — and that would increase harsh penalties for people who do not even know a drug contains trace amounts of fentanyl — are a major distraction from the proven strategies above and a waste of law enforcement resources. They also risk increasing overdose deaths and worsening racial disparities.

Staying focused on the three evidence-based strategies above will help turn the tide on the synthetic opioid crisis while also building healthier, safer and more just communities.