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New House Bill looks to fund substance abuse counseling center at University of Colorado-Colorado Springs

FDA via MGN

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The University of Colorado-Colorado Springs is seeking funding to develop a new substance abuse counseling center on campus.

Counseling would be a pro-bono, telehealth-style service delivered by graduate students studying to become substance abuse counselors at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, and would be overseen by licensed and fully-trained faculty. According to UCCS's substance use and recovery counseling program coordinator, Dr. Cortny Stark, El Paso County ranks number two in the state for fatal overdoses.

"We know that about 95-thousand people, just in 2019 alone in the state of Colorado, were unable to access substance use treatment services despite having active concerns," says Dr. Stark. "So there’s still a gap in care.”

It's why she — along with State Representatives Marc Snyder (D) and Shane Sandridge (R) of El Paso County — have House Bill 22-1158 on the table. The bill seeks funding through the general fund for the substance abuse counseling services, among other requests for the UCCS program on campus.

"Representative Sandridge and I feel strongly that this effort fits the correct criteria for securing funding," says State Representative Snyder. "The bill is currently in limbo in the house as we wait to see whether funding from the general fund or from a separate entity, such as behavioral health grants, would be the better fit for UCCS. But we believe the program is a perfect fit for funding."

Currently, the university has a wellness center strictly for students. Dr. Stark says the free, virtual substance abuse counseling would be available to anyone seeking help. Her hope is to have it up and running by fall of this year.

There’s a very significant need, especially in our rural communities," says Dr. Stark. "Folks often cannot access transportation, the transportation infrastructure is not in place. And so having something that they could go to a library or if they have a device they can connect, it would be no cost to them to be able to access services."

Dr. Stark says there's also a stigma around seeking counseling, making the telehealth services a convenient option to those not wanting to seek a more public option for help.

"This would bring it home to them," says Dr. Stark.

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Natalie Haddad

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