DENVER, Colo. (KRDO) -- The sheer numbers are alarming.
Last year, one person in Colorado died of an overdose every six hours, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Now, Emergency Room Physician, and founder of the Colorado Naloxone Project, Dr. Donald Stader, wants to halt overdose deaths as best as possible. His goal? Send those patients identified at high risk to overdose home with Naloxone, or Narcan -- which is proven to save lives.
"This is one of the only behaviors that we can do in hospitals and emergency departments and in clinics to affect overdose numbers," said Dr. Stader, who works at Swedish Medical Center.
So far, 52% of Colorado emergency room departments are covered in the effort to dispense Naloxone. The efforts have been funded in part by grants, and the recent passage of Colorado House Bill 1065, which requires insurance companies that cover overdose antidotes to pay hospitals that dispense the life-saving drugs directly to patients.
Dr. Stader's goal is that 100% of Colorado's ERs would be funded to dispense Naloxone for patients to take home; convincing insurance companies that Naloxone dispensing is worthy of premium costs is the next step.
"Getting payers to add this to what they're already paying for is -- in many ways -- the larger lift. But there's also evidence that shows this is extremely cost-effective. When you actually prevent people from overdosing, from having brain injuries from overdosing, from having organ failure from overdosing, in the long run, you're actually saving money for insurers. And that means we're saving money all around," said Dr. Stader.
According to the project leaders, a visit to the emergency room is a warning sign: many people who do overdose fatally had a visit to an ER within three months before their deaths.
"Personally, I don't want to tell mothers and fathers of 20- and 30-year-olds that they're losing their kids. It's not a moral failing. It's the disease of addiction," said Dr. Stader.