Give Colorado communities the choice to end overdoses

Overdose prevention centers can save lives and free police to address the the root causes of violent crime

April 24, 2023 8:29 am

House Bill 23-1202, proposed at the Colorado Capitol, would allow Colorado cities the choice of establishing overdose prevention centers. (Quentin Young/Colorado Newsline)

Colorado is at a crossroads when it comes to the overdose crisis, which is among the most deadly public health emergencies in American history. With our proximity to the Interstate 70 and Interstate 25 corridors, where fentanyl is smuggled across the country, we have the opportunity to choose a path that can set an example for the entire nation.

That is why I strongly support House Bill 23-1202, a bill that will allow Colorado cities the choice of establishing overdose prevention centers, which provide medical supervision, safe equipment, overdose-reversal medication, and referrals to addiction treatment services for people who use heroin and fentanyl. This will steer users away from our public streets, buses, and parks into controlled settings where opiate addiction can be treated like the critical public health issue it is.


We lose five of our neighbors in Colorado to overdose every day, and it is therefore critical that we evaluate the evidence on overdose prevention centers. While hundreds of centers have been implemented successfully across Europe and Canada, Vancouver serves as an instructive example. After the city was allowed to choose this model of supervised opioid use, the community experienced a nearly 30% decline in overdose deaths. In Barcelona, Spain, the community saw its overdose deaths reduced by half over two decades with the implementation of this prevention model, suggesting even stronger benefits over time.

Police officers very often find themselves at the exhausting and traumatic frontlines of this overdose crisis — responding to overdoses to administer reversal medications like naloxone. However, we cannot always respond in time to prevent permanent brain damage or death from occurring from an overdose the way that medical professionals can at overdose prevention centers. Giving communities a choice means that our officers will have more time to focus on addressing the root causes of violent crime in our community rather than constantly responding to these horrific overdose incidents.

Lastly, giving localities the choice to establish these centers can help us keep our public spaces clean from used needles and other paraphernalia. Rather than having officers respond to nuisance calls about individuals using these substances in businesses’ bathrooms, public transit, or public parks, we can instead rest assured they are safe and connected with resources that can help them work through addiction. Business leaders in Vancouver who were initially skeptical of overdose prevention sites have come to appreciate how contained and controlled use keeps their neighborhoods safer.

Families are suffering from the loss of their loved ones across our state. We owe it to them to allow their voices to be heard on this critical issue of public safety.

Colorado stands at a crossroads, and the path we choose next is one of life or death for countless people in our communities.

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Jeff Kaufman
Jeff Kaufman

Jeff Kaufman is an attorney and former officer with the New York Police Department for the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn. He has also served as a teacher at Rikers Island, where he taught criminal law.