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Denver Co. (CO) inmates can leave jail with free Narcan and fentanyl test strips

By: Nicole Fierro


DENVER (KDVR) — The Denver Sheriff Department launched a program that sends released inmates home with tools to combat fentanyl overdoses.


Statistics are fueling a need to do something about the fentanyl crisis in Denver County jails.


“Unfortunately, when individuals leave both jail and prisons, they are 40 to 129 times more likely to die of overdose upon release within that two-week time period,” Dr. Nikki Johnson, DSD chief of mental health services, said.


The sheriff’s office has now put more than $110,000 in state grant money toward launching a new Harm Reduction Release Bag pilot program. For the next 90 days, people being released to the community from the Downtown Detention Center and the Denver County Jail will be offered the bags.


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The bags will include one dose of Narcan, five fentanyl test strips, inpatient and outpatient medication-assisted treatment resources in the Denver area, and a contact number for Narcan replacement.


“We know that every single day people are dying so, for us, it’s about helping the folks that are leaving to stay alive,” Denver Sheriff Elias Diggins said.


The Denver Department of Public Health and Environment estimates that there were approximately 449 drug-related deaths in Denver last year.


Denver’s downtown and county jails release approximately 40 people a day. Johnson estimates around 80% of those leaving will walk out with a bag.


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“We know that over 95% of our population gets out,” Johnson said. “These are family members. These are children. These are our neighbors, community members. So, it’s really important to us to be able to provide this for all of those individuals and to save a life.”


Harm Reduction Release Bags will be a 90-day pilot program, which will be reviewed after 30 days, to determine sustainability based on need.