Health sec­re­tary touts Springs pro­gram

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Jakob Rodgers

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s top health of­fi­cial on Tues­day hailed a Colorado-based non­profit as an ex­am­ple of how to turn the tide on the na­tion’s rag­ing opi­oid epi­demic.

Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Tom Price toured Phoenix Mul­tisport’s Colorado Springs gym Tues­day evening, prais­ing its abil­ity to help par­tic­i­pants feel like “fam­ily” while pro­vid­ing a safe space to re­main sober.

“It kind of punc­tu­ates what we’ve seen in other com­mu­ni­ties, and that is that lo­cal so­lu­tions work best,” Price said.

Price’s visit came on the heels of a White House com­mis­sion’s re­port urg­ing Trump to “de­clare a na­tional emer­gency” on the epi­demic as a means to force Congress into ap­prov­ing more money to com­bat the prob­lem.

In Colorado, fa­tal nar­cotic painkiller over­doses have nearly tripled since 2001, claim­ing 300 lives in 2016, ac­cord­ing to the Colorado Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health and En­vi­ron­ment.

Price of­fered no clues on the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s plans for han­dling for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health law.

But he de­fended his push to end Med­i­caid’s ex­pan­sion, which un­der the Af­ford­able Care Act af­forded sub­stance abuse treat­ment ben­e­fits to mil­lions of Amer­i­cans.

Ad­dic­tion spe­cial­ists have urged him not to end that cov­er­age.

“What we’re try­ing to do is make cer­tain that every sin­gle Amer­i­can has ac­cess to a health cov­er­age pol­icy that works for them,” Price said.

The ef­fort to re­peal the Af­ford­able Care Act never came up as Price chat­ted Tues­day with the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s lead­ers.

Rather, a dozen Phoenix regulars heaved medicine balls and did count­less burpees as Price toured the spa­cious gym off Colorado Av­enue, east of In­ter­state 25.

Ac­tiv­i­ties are held every day, in­clud­ing work­outs, moun­tain bike rides, rock climb­ing trips and yoga classes.

The goal: pro­vide a healthy out­let to bat­tle their ad­dic­tions, while build­ing a net­work of fel­low ath­letes to help when the cravings hit.

James Eads, 40, who has par­tic­i­pated in the group for four years while re­cov­er­ing from alcohol and metham­phetamine ad­dic­tion, gushed about it to Price.

“It gave me pas­sion,” Eads said. “It gave me peo­ple to sur­round my­self with.”

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