Routt County groups tackle prescription drug addiction with success

When a problem is vast and complex, it is almost impossible for one group to achieve positive change. Collaboration is needed to bring together different ideas and elements to solve serious problems. The statistics on prescription drug addiction are staggering nationwide as the number of deaths related to this epidemic continues to increase year after year. However, Routt County’s numbers saw a decrease in 2017. This is the result of several collaborative efforts that made a measurable difference. Our community cooperation yielded a reduction in the number of opioid overdose-related deaths in Routt County to five deaths in 2017, compared to nineteen opioid overdose-related deaths in 2016.

This achievement is the result of collaboration and execution by the Yampa Valley RX Task Force, Northwest Colorado Community Health Partnership (NCCHP), UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center (YVMC), The Mark McManus Foundation, and many others.

UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center was one of the eight emergency rooms across the state to participate in a six-month pilot program aimed to reduce opioid addiction. It was reported that emergency departments involved with the program had a 36 percent drop in the number of opioids used when compared to the same time period in 2016. UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center reported a 40 percent decrease in emergency department usage locally. “The numbers mean that the emergency room clinicians are doing a great job of giving people other options rather than just providing these controlled substances as the first line of defense,” said Mara Rhodes, Rx Task Force Regional Coordinator for NCCHP.

The avenues to access opioid prescription drugs do not stop in the emergency room. Mara Rhodes works with clinical offices in the region to educate their medical staff on the risks associated with prescribing opioids to its patients and promotes the benefits of offering other therapy treatments.  Education has led to a reduction in prescribed opioids at Orthopedics of Steamboat Springs, the team at UCHealth Pain Management Clinic – Steamboat Springs, Steamboat Family Medicine, and many other clinics.

The RX Task Force furthers its educational reach to youth, parents, coaches, mentors, and professionals by hosting over twenty community events to date, with many more planned in the future. These events include a “Lunch & Learn” series designed for adults, presentations to the Steamboat Springs High School student body, an upcoming “Why Do I Hurt” Continuing Medical Education (CME) opportunity, a PTSD seminar entitled “Triangle of Tragedy” for first responders, a “More PT Less Rx” program offered at UCHealth SportsMed Clinic – Steamboat Springs, and more.  These events are funded in part by the Mark McManus Foundation. To find out more please visit

To achieve the community goal of decreasing drug addiction and eliminating overdose deaths in NW Colorado, YVCF has funded the prevention program “Music with Vision” that serves over 1500 local participants. The program benefits the community by providing a safe and sober venue for youth to enjoy music and connect with friends. “The real clarity I’m trying to pursue is this is not simply a music program,” said Howard, development director for Music with Vision. “This is a platform to initiate a culture change around how we address opioid use, how we achieve wellness and avoid addiction.” This program was fully funded by local donors at YVCF.

Reduction in addictive medication prescriptions, continued education on the risks of using controlled substances like opioids and benzodiazepines, along with programs to assist youth in developing tools to build healthy futures that do not include recreational drug use, are part of the complex plan leading to positive change in our region. Our community must continue to leverage collaborations and resources to address this public health crisis.  The Mark McManus Foundation at Yampa Valley Community Foundation plans to continue its work with donors and local organizations to fund programs to address this crisis on a community level.


The Mark McManus Foundation is held at the Yampa Valley Community Foundation and makes grants to end the stigma surrounding addiction by providing prevention tools, options for pain and mental health therapy treatments and ways to support those in recovery. The fund was started by Mara McManus Rhodes, Co-Founder of The Rx Task Force after she lost her younger brother and only sibling to prescription drug addiction in 2014.

The Yampa Valley Community Foundation is the primary source for philanthropic resources and education for both donors and nonprofit organizations in Northwest Colorado. We promote thoughtful, individualized charitable giving and create endowments that have a meaningful impact in the Yampa Valley. In all that we do, the Yampa Valley Community Foundation operates with the highest integrity. We are the gold standard in client services and a trusted resource to the community. Our work is impeccable, impactful and transparent to those we serve.

Northwest Colorado Community Health Partnership‘s vision is to make Northwest Colorado the greatest place for kids, individuals and families to live, learn, work, play, age and connect with our communities, partners, and clients. Thier mission is to develop a regional network of coordinated care for Northwest Colorado to include oral health, behavioral health, health promotion, disease prevention, chronic disease management and acute care for all residents.