A silent crisis: A new era for treating substance abuse disorders in Eagle County

Carolyn Paletta | Vail Daily

Substance abuse disorders are one of the most common health issues in the country and in Eagle County. In 2019, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reported that 19.3 million people over the age of 18, a full 7.7% of the United States adult population, struggled with a substance abuse disorder. Here in Eagle County, substance misuse has been the cause of 117 hospitalizations and 27 fatalities in the last five years.

Though substance abuse is categorized as a chronic disease that shares similar attributes to type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease, data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows that nearly 90% of those that meet the diagnosis never seek treatment. A combination of stigma, limited access to resources and lack of education has allowed this often treatable disease to fester, making it the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States.

In the five years between 2013 and 2017, Eagle County recorded a 330% increase in hospitalizations related to substance abuse, while recording a 465% increase in visits for anxiety and depression during the same time period. The numbers were jarring, and they woke up the community to the need for accessible and affordable behavioral health services in the valley.

Eagle County is now at the beginning of a new era for treating substance abuse disorders, and a flood of resources and information campaigns are making a path to recovery more accessible than ever before...