By Margaret Jackson / NewsBreak Denver
(Denver, Colo.) Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson is organizing a statewide summit to train law enforcement officials on investigating and prosecuting fentanyl-related deaths.
During the two-day summit on June 2-3 at the Denver Art Museum, topics include prosecuting overdose deaths as homicides and how law enforcement can use all its tools to combat the problem.
Bronson is working with the Colorado District Attorney Council, the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and the attorney general’s office, which provides funding for the program. The city of Denver also is involved in the summit.
“One of the great things about the state of Colorado is how collaborative we’ve been and are in finding practical solutions to really big problems, and this is one of the biggest we’ve faced,” Bronson said.
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine. It was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1968 and is used as pain medication and anesthesia.
The first nine months of 2021 saw a 42% jump in fentanyl-related overdose deaths compared to 2020. In Denver alone, half of all overdose deaths in 2021 involved fentanyl.
The summit is being organized as a bill makes that makes a gram of fentanyl a felony makes its way through the Colorado legislature.
Other changes proposed in the 43-page bill include:
- Increasing funding for fentanyl test strips and overdose reversal medications
- Creating harsher penalties for fentanyl dealers
- Requiring addiction treatment for some defendants
- Expanding medication-assisted treatment in jails
- Creating a criminal charge for drug distribution resulting in death
“Many DAs are just now seeing fentanyl appear in their communities,” Bronson said. “It started to appear in Denver a year so so ago in real numbers. We think we are at the beginning of a wave where it’s just going to get worse. We’re going to see it surge.”