Leadership Statement

Addressing the Fentanyl Crisis, 4-19-22

Dear students, faculty and staff,

As we have been seeing in the news with alarming frequency, overdoses and deaths related to fentanyl are on the rise in Colorado and around the country. We continue to hear stories of lives lost in our communities after individuals ingest illicit drugs laced with this powerful narcotic. Indeed, our healthcare providers see its devastating effects in their emergency departments and clinics on a daily basis. 

While this growing public health crisis can feel daunting, each of us can help share information and resources for stemming its spread. 

Expertise & Resources for Fighting the Fentanyl Crisis

Our campus has long been part of efforts to address the opioid epidemic devastating families and communities across Colorado and around the country. We are well-positioned to help fight the growing fentanyl crisis facing us today.

You may know that CU Anschutz is home to the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, established nearly a decade ago to coordinate our state’s response to the public health crisis of drug misuse and abuse. Operating out of the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, the consortium has made a meaningful impact in partnership with nonprofits, government agencies and providers statewide and continues to lead efforts to battle the fentanyl spike. 

Many resources are available, including several upcoming efforts right here on campus made possible by the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention. We encourage you to familiarize yourself with these resources to help protect our community.

Lifesaving Tools

Lifesaving tools may help prevent or temporarily reverse an opioid overdose. 

  • Naloxone, commonly referred to by brand name Narcan, is an FDA-approved medication that temporarily reverses an opioid overdose and can save lives. It is safe, easy to administer, and widely available in Colorado. If you know of someone at risk, consider these resources:
    • The free OpiRescue app helps users recognize signs of an overdose, find naloxone and use it to reverse an overdose, and more.
    • Fentanyl test strips can be used to identify the presence of fentanyl in unregulated drugs. While these strips can be effective, they may not detect other substances so be aware that a negative result does not necessarily mean a drug is safe. 
  • Of course, always call 911 in the event of an overdose or emergency.

Free nasal naloxone kits will be available on campus next Tuesday, April 26.

Stop by Education 2 North between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., or the Fitzsimons Building lobby between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. to pick up your free nasal Narcan kit. Quantities are limited. Staff will be on hand to answer questions.

Safe Disposal

Assume any pill or drug not purchased directly from a pharmacy could contain fentanyl ‒ including prescription medications. Also be sure to regularly dispose of unused or expired drugs:

Tell friends and family about drug disposal events ‒ like the U.S. DEA National Prescription Drug Take Back Day coming up Saturday, April 30, on campus. Drop-offs may be made on the south side of the Fitzsimons Building from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Campus Support Services

Many free, confidential resources are available for members of the CU Anschutz community.

Employees can call the Real Help Hotline at 833.533.CHAT (2428) or connect with the Colorado State Employee Assistance Program.

Students who would like to speak to someone about their health or well-being, or those wishing to provide support for others on campus, may contact our Student Outreach and Support Office.

Colorado Crisis Services is another resource, available 24 hours a day year-round.

Facts about Fentanyl

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid typically used to treat patients with chronic severe pain. It is a controlled substance similar to morphine but 100 times more potent, and 50 times as potent as heroin. Just 2 milligrams can be lethal. 

Fentanyl can be combined with other illicit drugs and sold as powders, sprays or pressed pills to look like legal prescription opioids.

  • 150+ people die every day from overdoses related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
  • Every 5 hours and 56 minutes a fatal overdose occurs in Colorado.
  • Of the 1,659 drug overdose deaths in Colorado last year, nearly 50% involved fentanyl, up from 37% just one year prior.

What You Can Do to Help

Spread the word about the dangers of fentanyl and where to find support and resources. The university will continue to marshal expertise and other resources to address this crisis. 

You have led by example throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and you can do the same when it comes to this health challenge. 

Thank you and be well. Your partnership helps keep #CUAnschutzTogether.


Don Elliman

Roderick Nairn
Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs

John J. Reilly, Jr.
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs & Dean, School of Medicine

Ralph Altiere
Dean, Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences

David Engelke
Dean, Graduate School

Denise Kassebaum
Dean, School of Dental Medicine

Elias Provencio-Vasquez
Dean, College of Nursing

Jonathan Samet
Dean, Colorado School of Public Health

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