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A crash course in stopping the opioid epidemic

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As the opioid epidemic has swept across the nation, proving it doesn’t discriminate against race, income or age, there has been a conversation visibly absent from schools and among young people about the dangers and addictive qualities painkillers, often prescribed by a doctor, can have.But that is changing.Rise Above Colorado, a drug prevention program that emerged from th…

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As the opioid epidemic has swept across the nation, proving it doesn’t discriminate against race, income or age, there has been a conversation visibly absent from schools and among young people about the dangers and addictive qualities painkillers, often prescribed by a doctor, can have.But that is changing.Rise Above Colorado, a drug prevention program that emerged from the Colorado Meth Project, now incorporates opioid abuse into its drug prevention campaigns, which have mostly focused on underage marijuana and alcohol consumption. And other organizations, such as Speak Now Colorado, are advising parents on how to talk to their kids about prescription drugs. “In Colorado, (data shows) the larger rate of misuse in opioids is among 18-25 year olds, so if you want to prevent those outcomes you really need to start early,” said Kavitha Kailasam, the director of community partnership for Rise Above. She said the move to incorporate education on the dangers of opioids in particular has been data-driven. Surveys conducted by Rise Above found that perceived risk of prescription pain relievers has decreased. In 2013, 66 to 80 percent of teenagers surveyed in southern Colorado said they perceived the risk of prescription opioids as “high.” In 2016 that perception of significant risk dropped to between 51 and 65 percent.

In Schools

Maelah Robinson-Castillo, a Centennial High School student in Pueblo who works with Rise Above, said she doesn’t think a lot of the students she goes to school with are aware of how dangerous opioids can be. “In a way, it’s kind of accepted,” she said, explaining that those drugs seem safer than others because they come with a doctor’s discretion. Rise Above has mostly taken this approach to drug prevention: highlighting that a lot of a student’s peers don’t use drugs or consume alcohol. Kailasam said there is a misconception among young adults that use is more common than it is. According to a Healthy Kids Colorado survey from 2015, only 14 percent of those surveyed said they have taken prescription drugs without a prescription. In comparison, 59 percent said they’ve consumed alcohol and 38 percent say they’ve consumed marijuana.But even with that data, there isn’t much more on the opioid epidemic as it relates to teenagers.Alexis Ellis, a regional health connector for the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment, said she thinks that’s going to be changing in the future, but where the data gap has presented the biggest problem is in schools where drug prevention programs are largely based on data.Robinson-Castillo has taken on her own prevention program, called “Centennial on the Rise.” It’s an event where students highlight what they are passionate about. At its core, the high school junior said it’s a way for students to prove that they’re more than the negative stereotypes adults sometimes assign to high school students in relation to drugs and alcohol. But she’d like to see schools do more. “Prevention can be looked at in different ways, by just having a youth-adult connection can help. For me, (it’s helpful) going to an adult and them having the resources so I can talk about prescription drugs,” Robinson-Castillo said. “In Pueblo we really don’t have that engagement piece. That’s a place where it’s lacking. We don’t have those mentors in our schools that have the resources if we do come across wanting to get help or wanting to seek guidance. I don’t think our teachers are trained in that.”

With Parents

It’s not just the classroom. Some argue parents should do more to education their children on the dangers of prescription drugs. That can start with educating themselves.
When DeEtte Kozlow took her 17-year-old daughter in to have her wisdom teeth removed last year, the Douglas County mom was sure of one thing: her daughter would not take any kind of opioid for the pain following the procedure.Kozlow said the nurse insisted on the prescription. She was told her daught…
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Growth continues for Pueblo’s cannabis industry but criticism remains unchanged

As more data comes in, the impact of legalization is generally positive infusing economic growth into the county.

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In one of the most monumental moments in history: when Colorado became one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. Commercial sales of cannabis rolled out January 1, 2014, and the Centennial State has never been the same.

For almost five years, Colorado has been at the forefront of the marijuana movement. The Colorado Department of Revenue reports that Colorado pot shops pulled in over $1.5 billion in medical and recreational marijuana sales in 2017, yet there are only 25 out of 64 counties that currently permit some kind of marijuana business.

Pueblo is one of these counties and is leading the way in Colorado’s rapidly expanding legal pot industry. As the first county to allow outdoor and greenhouse commercial cannabis grows, many contend that it’s the perfect place to grow marijuana, likening it to the Napa Valley of weed. Los Sueños Farms is the largest of almost 200 outdoor cannabis farms in the county with a projected 20 tons expected in 2018.

Legal cannabis in Pueblo has created jobs. Saved a struggling economy. Brought in millions of dollars in revenue.

In a recent pilot study, economists at Colorado State University – Pueblo Institute of Cannabis Research found some $35 million was generated in Pueblo from legal cannabis sales alone.

Chris Markuson, Pueblo County economic development and geographic information systems director says…

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

In one of the most monumental moments in history: when Colorado became one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana in 2012. Commercial sales of cannabis rolled out January 1, 2014, and the Centennial State has never been the same.
For almost five years, Colorado has been at the forefront of the marijuana movement. The Colorado Department of Revenue reports that Colorado pot shops pulled in over $1.5 billion in medical and recreational marijuana sales in 2017, yet there are only 25 out of 64 counties that currently permit some kind of marijuana business.
Pueblo is one of these counties and is leading the way in Colorado’s rapidly expanding legal pot industry. As the first county to allow outdoor and greenhouse commercial cannabis grows, many contend that it’s the perfect place to grow marijuana, likening it to the Napa Valley of weed. Los Sueños Farms is the largest of almost 200 outdoor cannabis farms in the county with a projected 20 tons expected in 2018.
Legal cannabis in Pueblo has created jobs. Saved a struggling economy. Brought in millions of dollars in revenue.
In a recent pilot study, economists at Colorado State University – Pueblo Institute of Cannabis Research found some $35 million was generated in Pueblo from legal cannabis sales alone.
Chris Markuson, Pueblo County economic development and geographic information systems director says that the explosive growth of the recreational cannabis industry “literally saved our construction community” during the end of the recession and has accounted for more than half of Pueblo county’s construction revenue for the last three years.
In 2017, 210 Pueblo County High School students received $2000 each in scholarship money that came from marijuana taxes. In early 2018, there was nearly $750,000 in funding available for these scholarships, with Pueblo County officials estimating to award some 600 in the 2019-2020 academic year.
As legal as pot may be, not everyone is exactly on board with recreational weed in Pueblo. Remember, marijuana was illegal for a really, really long time, and there are still plenty of people that think it should stay that way.
First, there’s the whole “gateway drug” theory. Pueblo addiction psychiatrist Libby Stuyt holds strongly to the idea that marijuana is indeed a gateway drug that can ultimately lead to harder drugs.
She says that over the past few years that cannabis has been legal, there’s been a significant increase in patients whose main addiction is marijuana – although many also admit to using alcohol, cocaine, meth, or opiates.
A 2018 analysis report published by LiveStories who specialize in civic data analysis, looked at drug use trends following marijuana legalization in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. While it found that while marijuana use did increase following legalization in these states, there was little evidence that proved it to be a “gateway drug.”
According to Adnan Mahmud, founder of LiveStories, “We haven’t found any strong correlation that suggests increased marijuana use leads to increases in other substance abuse.”
He noted that heroin and opioid deaths in Colorado, while obviously a great concern, are actually slightly lower than the national average. Cocaine use in Colorado is slightly higher than the national average and has risen a bit in the last year, but Muhmad says that cocaine use in Colorado prior to marijuana legalization was somewhat higher than it is today.
Then there’s Pueblo’s homeless population. Anne Stattelman, director of non-profit organization Posada which offers housing assistance to Pueblo’s homeless population, believes legal weed is to blame for rise in Pueblo’s homeless population. She estimates that around one-third of those who end up homeless in Pueblo came to the city because of marijuana.
“You remember the Gold Rush? We call it the Pot Rush. Not only do people think they’ll be able to smoke marijuana,” Stattelman said, “but people think they can get jobs working in marijuana fields.”
Is legal pot really to blame for the rise of homelessness in Pueblo and other cities across Colorado? Homelessness is everywhere and whether or not the increase in cities like Pueblo, Colorado Springs, and Denver is because of legal marijuana, it’s undoubtedly something that’s widely debated.
Pilot research that looked into the impact of legal cannabis in Pueblo County foun…
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Alive and Well: Despite layoffs, a Southern Colorado hospital battles perception it’s closing

Six months after staff eliminations and attrition, St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center is battling the perception that it’s closing.

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A robot-like concentration on five clinical areas, a recent expansion to its Flight For Life Colorado fleet, a new urgent care facility in Pueblo West, and even an ongoing plan to improve parking at its main Pueblo facility is a sign that St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center is thriving after its reorganization.

That didn’t seem to be the case about six months ago when, back in April, 275 positions were eliminated at the hospital and other employees left their jobs voluntarily – and St. Mary-Corwin CEO Mike Cafasso canvassed the local media trying to quell rumors that the hospital was closing.

“Our biggest challenge in the past few months has been the misinformation in Pueblo and the surrounding communities,” Cafasso said. “The biggest thing we hear is that people think the hospital is closed or that our ER is closed. … Our ER continues to offer 24-hour emergency room services. Wait times average less than 30 minutes in our ER and 88 percent of the patients treated in the St. Mary-Corwin ER do not need to be admitted to the hospital or transferred. These patients are treated, released and go home with their families, usually within a couple of hours of arriving.”

As for the employees who lost their jobs, Cafasso boasts that by mid-June nearly 90 percent of the 275 workers who had their jobs eliminated found new jobs elsewhere. “We hosted numerous job fairs and many of our associates found roles at other Centura facilities,” the CEO adds.

But even Cafasso admits it is “no secret” that times were tough at the hospital earlier this year. “Now, six months later, some of those associates who chose to leave (on their own terms, not part of the layoffs) are returning to St. Mary-Corwin,” he said. “To be clear, we are not filling the positions that were eliminated but instead, as we grow orthopedics and oncology services and align our new nursing unit, new positions have been created and those positions need to be filled. It is heartwarming to see people come back to work at St. Mary-Corwin. We feel we are a stronger workforce having gone through the challenging times, and are excited for what the future holds for us here at St. Mary-Corwin.”

Yet the rumors of St. Mary-Corwin’s demise persist. And St. Mary Corwin’s staff confronted those rumors by hosting a booth on Sept. 1 at the Colorado State Fair at which they passed out fresh fruit as a means of engaging the community. “That’s just one example of how we have been talking to people – one-on-one – answering questions and dispelling rumors. St. Mary-Corwin has been part of the Pueblo community for 135 years. Yes, we may look a little bit different than we did a year ago, but we are committed to Pueblo and Southern Colorado.”

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!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

A robot-like concentration on five clinical areas, a recent expansion to its Flight For Life Colorado fleet, a new urgent care facility in Pueblo West, and even an ongoing plan to improve parking at its main Pueblo facility is a sign that St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center is thriving after its reorganization.
That didn’t seem to be the case about six months ago when, back in April, 275 positions were eliminated at the hospital and other employees left their jobs voluntarily – and St. Mary-Corwin CEO Mike Cafasso canvassed the local media trying to quell rumors that the hospital was closing.
“Our biggest challenge in the past few months has been the misinformation in Pueblo and the surrounding communities,” Cafasso said. “The biggest thing we hear is that people think the hospital is closed or that our ER is closed. … Our ER continues to offer 24-hour emergency room services. Wait times average less than 30 minutes in our ER and 88 percent of the patients treated in the St. Mary-Corwin ER do not need to be admitted to the hospital or transferred. These patients are treated, released and go home with their families, usually within a couple of hours of arriving.”
As for the employees who lost their jobs, Cafasso boasts that by mid-June nearly 90 percent of the 275 workers who had their jobs eliminated found new jobs elsewhere. “We hosted numerous job fairs and many of our associates found roles at other Centura facilities,” the CEO adds.
But even Cafasso admits it is “no secret” that times were tough at the hospital earlier this year. “Now, six months later, some of those associates who chose to leave (on their own terms, not part of the layoffs) are returning to St. Mary-Corwin,” he said. “To be clear, we are not filling the positions that were eliminated but instead, as we grow orthopedics and oncology services and align our new nursing unit, new positions have been created and those positions need to be filled. It is heartwarming to see people come back to work at St. Mary-Corwin. We feel we are a stronger workforce having gone through the challenging times, and are excited for what the future holds for us here at St. Mary-Corwin.”
Yet the rumors of St. Mary-Corwin’s demise persist. And St. Mary Corwin’s staff confronted those rumors by hosting a booth on Sept. 1 at the Colorado State Fair at which they passed out fresh fruit as a means of engaging the community. “That’s just one example of how we have been talking to people – one-on-one – answering questions and dispelling rumors. St. Mary-Corwin has been part of the Pueblo community for 135 years. Yes, we may look a little bit different than we did a year ago, but we are committed to Pueblo and Southern Colorado.”

What’s different?

Pulp asked Cafasso to give as many details as he could about the hospital’s future plans.
During the transition since the layoffs, he said the hospital has zoomed in on five areas of concentration – refocusing on these areas, which he believes are St. Mary-Corwin’s “clinical strength.” The first is orthopedics, which includes joint replacement procedures and sports medicine. The hospital has an inpatient unit dedicated to joint replacement – and as Cafasso put it, the dedicated unit “expands patients’ access to leading-edge techniques and the most advanced technology.”
The second area of clinical specialization is cancer and breast care. The hospital’s Dorcy Center provides screening, diagnosis, and treatment with surgery, radiation therapy, radiation and medical oncology, chemotherapy, and an ambulatory infusion center. And the St. Mary-Corwin Breast Center of Excellence provides mammography screening, breast cancer diagnosis and treatment in partnership with the Dorcy Cancer Center.
Emergency and trauma services make up the third area of focus at St. Mary-Corwin. The facility provides 24-hour emergency room services and a Level III Trauma Center with general surgery, orthopedic surgery and full-time anesthesia coverage. Flight For Life Colorado provides life-saving services across Southern Colorado and operates from St. Mary-Corwin with ground and air transport.
The hospital’s third area of concentration is emergency and trauma services. They include 24-hour emergency room services and a Level III Trauma Center with general surgery, orthopedic surgery and full-time anesth…
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The Rural Broadband Push to Close Colorado’s Digital Divide

In small towns across Southeast Colorado it’s a story of expensive fast internet and little to no access to high-speed broadband.

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Colorado’s rural residents face a digital divide. When houses and buildings are widely scattered, so is the infrastructure designed to deliver internet data. The equipment needed for high-speed internet simply doesn’t exist in many rural areas.

Rural residents are offered slower, more expensive internet options than their urban counterparts.

Randy Reed noticed a difference when he found a new home near Bailey, a small community in Park County. The few internet service packages available to Randy in Bailey were slower and more expensive than the options in Denver. “The fastest is about 20 Mbps,” Reed said.

Internet speeds are measured in megabits per second (mbps). The Federal Communications Commission explains that moderate internet activities, such as watching streaming videos or playing games online, require speeds of 12 to 25 mbps. Households or businesses with multiple computers need more mbps to deliver video conferencing or fast downloads of applications.

Internet service at 25 Mpbs is considered high-speed for a typical household, delivering smooth video and loading web pages quickly on multiple computers.

“When we’re talking about broadband in rural areas, we have to talk about infrastructure. It’s the same thing for me as water pipes being past their life expectancies,” said Mallory Pillard, director of the Carnegie Public Library in Trinidad.

Pillard said residents from Trinidad and surrounding Las Animas County visit the library regularly to take advantage of internet access.

!– BEGIN THEIA POST SLIDER —

Colorado’s rural residents face a digital divide. When houses and buildings are widely scattered, so is the infrastructure designed to deliver internet data. The equipment needed for high-speed internet simply doesn’t exist in many rural areas.
Rural residents are offered slower, more expensive internet options than their urban counterparts.
Randy Reed noticed a difference when he found a new home near Bailey, a small community in Park County. The few internet service packages available to Randy in Bailey were slower and more expensive than the options in Denver. “The fastest is about 20 Mbps,” Reed said.
Internet speeds are measured in megabits per second (mbps). The Federal Communications Commission explains that moderate internet activities, such as watching streaming videos or playing games online, require speeds of 12 to 25 mbps. Households or businesses with multiple computers need more mbps to deliver video conferencing or fast downloads of applications.
Internet service at 25 Mpbs is considered high-speed for a typical household, delivering smooth video and loading web pages quickly on multiple computers.
“When we’re talking about broadband in rural areas, we have to talk about infrastructure. It’s the same thing for me as water pipes being past their life expectancies,” said Mallory Pillard, director of the Carnegie Public Library in Trinidad.
Pillard said residents from Trinidad and surrounding Las Animas County visit the library regularly to take advantage of internet access.
“Streaming is a big issue almost as soon as you get out of town,” said Pillard. She explained watching a single television episode on Netflix would be a challenge on a limited rural data plan.
In Colorado, the difference in internet speed availability between metropolitan and rural speeds is stark. In Front Range counties like Denver, Arapahoe, and Douglas, over 95% of residents can choose to subscribe to internet providers offering at least 25 mbps.
In Crowley County, only 1.8% of residents are offered similar internet speeds.
Even when high-speed internet access is available, the service costs more for rural subscribers.
In metro areas of Colorado, a basic internet package from a major provider like CenturyLink or Xfinity averages around $45 per month, with speeds up to 60 Mpbs.
Major services like CenturyLink don’t reach the eastern plains town of Kit Carson in Cheyenne County. Kit Carson residents can choose from a few internet providers, including Eastern Slope Rural Telephone Association.
Eastern Slope’s service area stretches from the town of Bennett in Adams County about 35 miles east of Denver, to Eads in Kiowa County east of Pueblo. In 2017, Eastern Slope undertook a project to expand fiber access to residents of towns like Bennett. They offer eastern Colorado residents plans starting around $40 monthly – but at speeds of only 4 Mpbs.
To get speeds of 12 Mbps, the threshold for medium service set by the FCC, Kit Carson residents would need to pay at least $90 per month. Speeds up to 60 Mpbs, like those available to urban Colorado internet users, simply aren’t available.
High-speed internet depends on an infrastructure of cables reaching each building that needs internet service. Almost every home and business is connected by copper telephone cables, which can provide internet access at slower dial-up speeds in a service called Digital Subscriber Line, or DSL.
Faster internet speeds can be delivered over more modern cables, like fiber optics – but the installation of new cables can be costly.
Internet service companies prioritize installing new cables where they anticipate customers will subscribe to their ser…
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Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
Continue Reading

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you can change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

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