Ideas. Stories. Community.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
KSJD's Fall Fund Drive is happening now! Click HERE to donate today.

Health & Prevention Report: Opioid overdoses spike in Montezuma County as fentanyl circulates among street drugs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
Salwan Georges
The Washington Post/Getty Images
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 130 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

Overdoses and overdose deaths are on the rise in Southwest Colorado, including here in Montezuma County. Many of the overdoses are the result of the opioid fentanyl, which is often mixed with illicit street drugs. Across the country, opioid overdose rates continue to rise year after year. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 130 Americans die everyday from an opioid overdose.

To get a better picture of what these overdoses look like here in Southwest Colorado, and what they mean for the larger community, KSJD's Lucas Brady Woods spoke to Jessica Borden, the risk reduction officer with the Cortez Fire Protection District.

Lucas Brady Woods, KSJD: Jessica, thanks so much for speaking with KSJD News Today.

Jessica Borden: Yeah, absolutely. I'm happy to be here and help spread this important information.

KSJD: Various local law enforcement agencies have been talking about a rise in overdoses largely due to the opioid fentanyl, which is dangerously potent and circulating as a street drug. What have you seen regarding overdoses here in Cortez.

Borden: Like our law enforcement agencies, we have been seeing an increase in overdoses. On some of the incidents we respond with. We respond to all EMS calls within the Cortes Fire Protection District until southwest EMS arrives and then we turn over patient care to their crews.

KSJD: I do want to get into what these calls look like in a second. But before we do, can you talk a little bit about why fentanyl is so dangerous for the human body even for drug users who have experience with opioids.

Jessica Borden is the risk reduction officer for the Cortez Fire Protection District.
Jodi Jahrling
Courtesy of Jessica Borden
Jessica Borden is the risk reduction officer for the Cortez Fire Protection District.

Borden: So fentanyl is a very powerful pain medication that can be beneficial when used properly, you know, for people who have injuries and need pain management, but it can also be very, very dangerous if it is misused, or if it is not produced properly. So we are seeing cases where typically with a heroin overdose, we would administer Narcan to the patient. And we'll see a change and an improvement in that patient within minutes of administering that medication. But when we have fentanyl involved, we are not seeing those responses with just a single dose of Narcan. And so we end up having to administer multiple doses. And sometimes that's just not even enough to bring someone out of an overdose.

KSJD: Wow. What do these calls tend to look like when first responders arrive on the scene of an overdose.

Borden: It depends on what the patient like how much the patient has taken. It could be someone who's just extremely lethargic and just not acting right. Or it could be as far as someone is in cardiac arrest. You know, where their heart's not beating and they're not breathing. A lot of times, probably the most common thing that we see is will arrive on scene and the patient isn't breathing. And we have to assist them with ventilations, meaning that we're breathing for them. And and then we'll administer Narcan. And, and if they have not taken a drug that has been laced with fentanyl, we usually see good outcomes with just Narcan administration. But if they have taken a fentanyl laced drugs, we were either having to ventilate them for longer periods of time until we get them to the hospital, or we just don't see a good outcome at all.

KSJD: From your perspective, what are the best ways that the city can prevent overdoses and overdose deaths? Like what what can the city do? And what what might the city need in order to prevent overdoses and overdose deaths?

Borden: I think the most important thing to realize is that, that in order to prevent overdoses and overdose deaths, it really takes a community approach. And that's where, you know, public agencies working together to help educate the public. Not only for those who are using drugs, but also for people who know people who are using drugs. So this takes part in education, which leads to drug abuse prevention, and letting people know what resources are available to them. And in our community in Cortez and Montezuma County, there's there's resources available through public health and access health through the hospital. So the big thing is, is that we all work together to educate the community of what's available to them, and how to protect themselves and hopefully, especially with our youth, keep them from ever abusing drugs.

KSJD: Jessica, thank you so much for joining us today.

Borden: Thank you, Lucas, thank you for having us and giving us the opportunity to help to keep the community safe by putting out these prevention messages.

Health and Prevention reporting on KSJD is made possible with support from Celebrating Healthy Communities, the Montezuma County Health Department and Southwest Health System.

Corrected: March 17, 2022 at 10:10 AM MDT
A previous version of this interview that aired on KSJD included incorrect information about the effects of drugs on first responders when handling substances or treating overdose victims. Research shows that, while some transmission may happen, the possibility of significant adverse health impacts on first responders from exposure to drugs and victims is extremely low. According to the American College of Medical Toxicology, fear of exposure spread by misinformation can cause first responders to delay time-sensitive, life-saving treatment for overdose victims.
Stay Connected
Lucas is the News Director for KSJD Community Radio. His work focuses on serving the public of the Four Corners with responsible, factual reporting.