Mayor Hancock, DDPHE Host Denver Fentanyl Action Summit

Published on September 12, 2022

Over 200 public health pros come together to address fentanyl crisis

Mayor Michael B. Hancock and the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) today kicked off the Denver Fentanyl Action Summit, a two-day gathering of regional public health experts to mobilize action related to substance use and save lives.

The Denver Fentanyl Action Summit brings together over 200 public health professionals from across the region to highlight emerging strategies for managing the opioid epidemic and best practices related to harm reduction, treatment and recovery, and community-level solutions.  

The invasion of fentanyl in our communities is a national crisis, and Colorado is not immune. Over 400 people died from a drug overdose in Denver in 2021, and over 50 percent of those overdoses involved fentanyl. Overdose deaths continue to rise—in the first quarter of this year, drug deaths are up by almost 8 percent from the same time in 2021.

“Fentanyl is robbing our families of the lives of their loved ones not just in Denver, but in communities across Colorado and the country. As I sat with families and listened to their stories of how their loved ones were taken by this poison, the reality of the situation was never clearer.,” Mayor Hancock said. “By bringing together public health experts from around the region, we are diving deep to find solutions to this lethal crisis. Through treatment, harm reduction and support, we can provide a path forward for those using substances and help them on the road to recovery.”

Fatal and non-fatal overdoses are preventable. DDPHE and partners across the metro area are working to prevent substance misuse, improve treatment access and retention, and reduce harm associated with drug use.

“The influx of fentanyl in our community is taking a tremendous toll on people who use drugs, as well as on their friends and loved ones. DDPHE’s Office of Behavioral Health Strategies is addressing the problem head-on with strategies that meet people where they are with the help they need,” said Bob McDonald, DDPHE executive director and Denver’s public health administrator. “The insights that will be shared by experts in many public health fields at the Denver Fentanyl Action Summit will be imperative to continuing our efforts to combat this epidemic.”

Participants will leave the Summit with accurate, timely, and actionable information about the current state of substance misuse, including fentanyl, in the metro area as well as resources, tools, and relationships to help those struggling with addiction.

Summit presentations include a variety of informational sessions related to addressing the fentanyl crisis through the lens of overdose prevention, harm reduction, community engagement, and health equity, including:

  • Community-based drug checking technologies
  • Integrating community voice in behavioral health initiatives
  • Identifying and addressing infections and other medical complications of fentanyl use
  • Fentanyl use trends in Colorado
  • Naloxone distribution efforts in the region
  • Modeling potential implications of the felonization of fentanyl
  • Addressing root causes of opioid use