Jul 6, 2023 - News

Denver hospital opens youth detox center

Illustration of a person holding their hand in their hands with buprenorphine's chemical structure, EKGs and abstracted pills.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Denver Health is providing treatment for young people with drug addictions through its new adolescent detoxification facility — the first licensed center in the state.

Why it matters: The facility was created in response to a spike in opioid use among teenagers, with Dr. Kristina Foreman of Denver Health telling us more people under 21 are seeking treatment.

  • Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be 50 to 100 times stronger than heroin, has infiltrated Colorado's drug supply and led to a spike in fatal overdoses.
  • The Harm Reduction Action Center, which provides services to drug users, created a countdown clock showing a fatal overdose happens roughly every five hours.

Driving the news: Denver Health's Adolescent Behavioral Health Unit started providing substance detoxification services in May, Foreman tells us.

  • It's already treated five young people.
  • Dr. Christian Thurstone, director of behavioral health services at Denver Health, in a statement said the hospital eventually wants to accept four adolescents per week during the first year.

Details: The program will serve people ages 12 to 17, focusing on helping them withdraw from substances including cannabis, methamphetamine and opioids in a safe environment.

  • It will provide inpatient and outpatient treatment options. The hospital accepts private insurance and Medicaid.

Between the lines: Providing addiction treatment to teens differs from adults because it often requires more family involvement, something Foreman said the hospital's new program incorporates.

Threat level: Data presented last week to a state legislative committee showed more young people and people of color are dying from drug overdoses, according to the Denver Post.

Be smart: Adolescents interested in starting treatment can visit pediatric urgent care or the hospital's emergency room.


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