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Some Denver jails to provide harm reduction kits for inmates being released in new pilot program

Denver says pilot expected to last for 90 days, will be evaluated every 30 days
Colorado set to use marijuana money to implement opioid treatment program in worst-hit counties
Posted at 11:25 AM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-18 13:28:50-04

DENVER – People being released from two Denver jails will receive harm reduction kits containing Narcan, fentanyl testing strips and other resources for addiction treatment beginning Monday in an attempt to stave off post-release overdoses.

In addition to the dose of Narcan and fentanyl testing strips, people leaving the Downtown Detention Center will also get information on in- and outpatient medication assisted treatment (MAT) resources and on how to replace their Narcan.

“Our goal is to save lives, so we can engage individuals in substance misuse treatment while looking towards the future of decreasing recidivism and increasing sobriety,” said Dr. Nikki Johnson, the chief of Mental Health Services.

The city says the program will be a 90-day pilot program that will be reviewed after the first 30 days to determine whether or not it is sustainable.

The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment estimates around 450 people died of drug-related issues in 2021. People being released from jail have among the highest risk for overdoses within the first two weeks of their release and are up to 40-129 more likely to die of an overdose than the general public.

“The implementation of this program is a reflection of the immediate need there is to save lives because of the fentanyl crisis our nation is experiencing,” Sheriff Elias Diggins said in a statement. “Individuals who leave our custody are at risk for overdose, offering them a hard reduction release bag may save their life or someone they know.

The pilot program comes as state lawmakers are considering a bill that would, in its current form, make possession of more than 1 gram of any compound containing any amount of fentanyl a drug felony.

The city started allowing Denver residents to order Narcan and fentanyl testing strips from its website earlier this year.