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March 1, 2024

House Advances Bill to Prevent Drug Overdose Deaths and Improve Public Health

DENVER, CO –  The House today advanced legislation on a preliminary vote to reduce overdose deaths and improve public health in Colorado. HB24-1037, sponsored by Representatives Chris deGruy Kennedy and Elisabeth Epps, would help stop the spread of disease, ensure protections for those who administer opioid antagonists, and expand access to testing strips and other drug testing equipment. 

“Each year, our state’s fatal overdose count climbs higher; we need to invest in smart, data-driven harm reduction tactics to keep Coloradans alive,” said Rep. Chris deGruy Kennedy, Chair of the Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee, D-Lakewood. “This bill would expand access to testing strips and harm reduction tools to combat overdoses and the spread of disease, and expand protections for those acting in good faith to administer an opioid antagonist to save someone’s life. We’re committed to combating Colorado’s overdose crisis and working toward building a safer, healthier state.” 

“Life-saving harm reduction work prevents the spread of communicable diseases, improves public health, and increases community safety,” said Rep. Elisabeth Epps, D-Denver. “This bill helps vulnerable Coloradans and frontline harm reduction workers by improving access to test strips, clean equipment, and opioid antagonists – all of which are proven to prevent fatal overdoses and save lives.” 

HB24-1037, which was created through the 2023 Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Study Committee, would support efforts by local public health agencies to prevent the spread of disease by offering clean equipment and would expand protections for Coloradans acting in good faith to administer an opioid antagonist, such as Narcan, to prevent a fatal overdose.

This bill would also ensure that people who use drugs know they can go to the hospital for care without fear of arrest by removing the requirement that health care providers call law enforcement if the patient is possessing drugs or paraphernalia. This legislation also broadens existing drug testing grant programs to get ahead of the next black market substances hitting Colorado, like xylazine or “tranq”.

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