Colorado’s 2021 overdose deaths on track to break last year’s record

By: - December 16, 2021 10:31 am
HRAC photo wall

A wall at Harm Reduction Action Center in Denver, pictured Aug. 31, 2021, bears framed photos of people lost to drug overdose. (Faith Miller/Colorado Newsline)

It’s all but certain: More Coloradans will die of drug overdoses in 2021 than in any other year in recent history.

According to preliminary data from the Colorado Department of Health and Environment, as reported by Colorado Politics, the state lost 1,230 people to overdoses between Jan. 1 and Aug. 31. That’s significantly more than the 1,017 people who fatally overdosed during the same time period in 2020, which broke the previous record for overdose deaths.

People who need help with a substance use or mental health disorder can contact Colorado Crisis Services by calling 1-844-493-8255 or texting “TALK” to 38255. Trained professionals are available for crisis support and referrals 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If the number of people who died in the last four-month period of 2021 is on par with each of the first two four-month periods, the toll would exceed 1,800 overdose deaths — shattering last year’s record of 1,477.

State data shows fatal drug overdose deaths increased approximately 38% in Colorado from 2019 to 2020, the largest year-over-year increase since at least 2000.

“One overdose death in our state is too many, but we are seeing nearly five Coloradans die from this disease every single day," state Sen. Brittany Pettersen, a Lakewood Democrat, said in a Wednesday statement. "As the daughter of someone with a substance use disorder, I know the pain and anguish families feel when a loved one is struggling with this condition and are unable to get them the help they need."

Pettersen currently chairs the Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force, which is developing a plan to direct $450 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds toward the prevention and treatment of mental health and substance use disorders.

"I’m proud of the work we have done to increase access to the life-saving treatment people desperately need, but our work is far from over," Pettersen said, adding that lawmakers on the task force aim to "improve access to behavioral health services and ensure that mental health and substance use disorder care is available to everyone who is ready to get help, and to families who are fighting to save their loved one."


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Faith Miller
Faith Miller

Faith Miller was a reporter with Colorado Newsline covering the Colorado Legislature, immigration and other stories.