Illuminating Policy in 2022

Illuminating Policy in 2022

The regular session of the Colorado General Assembly kicked off on Wednesday, January 12th, and Illuminate Colorado is continuing its commitment to ensuring Colorado’s state policies build brighter childhoods for all Coloradans.

Illuminate has prioritized 2022 policy solutions to be responsive to what Colorado families need today. In addition, and built on research-informed protective factors, the Illuminate Colorado Policy Framework offers an organized approach for advancing family strengthening now and into the future.  

Click here to see the full Policy Framework with key highlights about how each policy builds specific protective factors in Colorado, or read the high-level summary of both below.

In 2022, we will be particularly focusing our advocacy efforts to:

    • Dedicate ongoing funding for community education about child sexual abuse prevention 
    • Improve Colorado Works for families
    • Ensure child care access for parents accessing behavioral health care
    • Support the recommendations of the Home Visiting Investment Task Force
    • Standardize mandatory reporting

Illuminating Policy Prevents Child Maltreatment

The Illuminate Colorado 2022 Policy Agenda highlights policies that build one or more protective factors in Colorado. But more broadly, Illuminate approaches its advocacy efforts based on the following framework:

Primary Prevention

These strategies build protective factors in all families to prevent child maltreatment before it occurs–including advancing equity by addressing systemic barriers to building protective factors.

    • Prioritize primary prevention in federal and state budgets by investing in proven services and professional education that support families and keep kids safe. 
    • Strengthen economic security for families.
    • Implement family-friendly work policies.

Secondary Prevention

This focused strategy builds protective factors in families in high stress situations to prevent child maltreatment before it occurs.

    • Ensure and expand tailored, non-stigmatizing, and culturally responsive support for families impacted by: 
        • Behavioral health, including both parental and pediatric
        • Intellectual and developmental disabilities, including fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
        • Intimate partner violence

Tertiary Prevention

This strategy builds protective factors in families to prevent recurrence of child  maltreatment–including addressing systemic barriers to healing and recovery.

    • Ensure communities identify and support children and families when abuse and neglect has occurred, focusing on creating equitable access to services to support healing and recovery.

    Investing in programs and policies that support families to overcome and bounce back from life’s challenges enables children to achieve their potential and grow up to be good neighbors and productive community members. It is essential for elected officials and policy makers to understand how to prevent child maltreatment and listen to parents in every community.


    Stay up to date on policy that prevents child maltreatment and the 2022 Illuminating Policy Agenda by subscribing to Illuminate Colorado’s blog.

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    Reflecting on a Year of Supporting Colorado Families Affected by Substance Use During Pregnancy

    Reflecting on a Year of Supporting Colorado Families Affected by Substance Use During Pregnancy

    What a 2021 we had in our collaborative efforts to move towards a Colorado that equitably serves all families through prevention and reduction of substance use during pregnancy and provides multigenerational support for families to thrive! We wish you rest and rejuvenation as the year draws to an end. 

    Everyone who contributed to our work this year–whether as a work group co-chair, work group member, or another kind of project collaborator–brought their unique perspectives and commitment to supporting Colorado families. As many of our members shared in our recent member feedback survey, compared to going it alone, we are more effective in achieving our goals together.

    About the Substance Exposed Newborns (SEN) Steering Committee

    The Colorado Substance Exposed Newborns (SEN) Steering Committee was established in 2008 and is a subcommittee of the Colorado Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force.

    The Colorado SEN Steering Committee is tasked with identifying and implementing strategies for reducing the number of families impacted by substance use during pregnancy and for improving outcomes for families across the lifespan.

    The priorities, strategies and activities of the SEN Steering Committee are guided by family voice experiences and leadership. Strategic planning, activity engagement and impact are each data-informed.

    Reflecting on Progress We’ve Made in 2021

    With the calendar year coming to a close, we wanted to reflect on some of our shared achievements in 2021:

      • Family Advisory Board and Steering Committee jointly developed Opioid Settlement Fund recommendations, which were presented to the Attorney General and Colorado Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force. We also began to explore a name change to better reflect our vision and values. The Family Advisory Board is also recruiting new members!
      • Data and Research Advisory Group provided recommendations for the Colorado Perinatal Substance Use Data Linkage Project and launched the design of a perinatal substance use data snapshot and outcomes dashboard.
      • FASD Awareness Work Group published a list of Colorado Providers Equipped to Diagnose Under the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Umbrella and conducted outreach to statewide organizations and networks of family-serving professionals in order to increase awareness of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) and offer the list of providers as a resource to share with families.
      • Plans of Safe Care Work Group updated the Colorado Plan of Safe Care document to reflect the newest evidence-informed best practices.
      • Policy Analysis Work Group developed a working draft of best practice organizational policy guidance around toxicology testing.
      • Provider Education Work Group developed and hosted an educational series on trauma-informed communication and care.
      • Lastly, in 2021 we launched our webpage–including information about our priorities, a subscription form, and a public calendar. Finally having an online presence feels like a milestone!

    What’s on the horizon?

    We look forward to what’s to come in 2022, including hiring a strategic initiatives manager focused on behavioral health systems who will support our efforts, and choosing a new name for our collective work. Onwards!

    About the Authors

    Diane Smith is a mother of three, a parent partner with Denver Parent Advocates Lending Support (DPALS) and chair of the Family Advisory Board to the SEN Steering Committee.

    Dr. Kathi Wells, is executive director of the Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect and co-chair of the SEN Steering Committee.

    Jade Woodard is the executive director of Illuminate Colorado and co-chair of the SEN Steering Committee. 

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    Illuminating Policy in 2022

    Illuminating Policy in 2022

    The regular session of the Colorado General Assembly kicked off on Wednesday, January 12th, and Illuminate Colorado is continuing its commitment to ensuring Colorado's state policies build brighter childhoods for all Coloradans. Illuminate has prioritized 2022 policy...

    Birthing Hospitals Poised to Help Every Baby Sleep Safe in Colorado

    Birthing Hospitals Poised to Help Every Baby Sleep Safe in Colorado

    Many years ago, hospitals weren’t required to ensure that new babies went home in a car seat. That simple act of normalizing car seat safety as infants leave the hospital and head home with new, and often overwhelmed, parents and caregivers has no doubt saved countless lives. Today, hospitals can play a similarly crucial role in helping every baby sleep safe.


    It’s as Easy as ABC

    More than 61,000 babies are born in Colorado every year.1 Those first days and months are full of joy and stress for every family, so it’s important that each baby is surrounded by parents, family, friends, neighbors, licensed and unlicensed child care providers, health care professionals and communities working to create environments for infants to thrive and sleep safely.

    Health care providers and hospital staff are sources of trusted information for new parents and have a critical opportunity to help families thrive, even after a family has left the hospital, by focusing on safe sleep in these precious first few days together.

    And the ABC’s of safe sleep are simple and easy: babies should be Alone on their Backs and in a Crib. This means that babies should sleep on their backs on a firm, flat surface, separate from adults or others, without any bumpers, soft bedding or stuffed toys.     

    Birthing Hospitals Are the First Step

    Birthing hospitals play a critical role in teaching new parents and caregivers what safe sleep practices look like–so much so that, in the Colorado Child Fatality Prevention System’s most recent annual legislative report, one of the recommendations made following the review of child fatalities in Colorado was to support policies that expand education, modeling and discharge safety screening in birthing hospitals.

    According to the report, at least six states require hospitals and health care providers to give parents and caregivers educational materials and information on infant safe sleep practices within health care settings, during a hospital stay or at discharge.2,3 The depth and breadth of safe sleep practices and policies at Colorado’s birthing hospitals is not widely or easily known.

    Hospitals have multiple options for demonstrating their commitment to safe sleep in practice:

    Shifting Practice through Cribs for Kids

    For hospitals looking for a straightforward place to start, the Cribs for Kids National Safe Sleep Hospital Certification Program may be the best fit. Hospitals participating in this no-cost program receive resources and support in drafting safe sleep policies for their organization, training for all health care providers in safe sleep, safe sleep educational materials for families and caregivers, support for modeling safe sleep in all settings (labor and delivery, NICUs, etc.), and messaging around safe sleep in alignment with the AAP’s recommendations.

    Cribs for Kids also provides a step-by-step hospital certification toolkit that guides organizations through certification requirements at the bronze, silver or gold levels depending on their commitments, policies and practices related to infant safe sleep. Of all the hospitals in Colorado, only one is currently certified by Cribs for Kids: Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, which is certified at the gold level.4

    Certification programs like Cribs for Kids are just a start for shifting practice and addressing families’ needs. For long term changes in practice, ongoing support and accountability–such as through a quality improvement approach–are needed to sustain change. Additionally, input from families, especially around considerations for cultural responsiveness, linguistic accessibility and social and economic needs, is needed to develop hospital efforts that truly work for Colorado families.

    While the first few days at a hospital are only one part of a new or expanding family’s safe sleep journey, Colorado has an opportunity–and an obligation–to shift practice in order to give our families the strongest and safest start possible.

    Get Involved in October--and Beyond

    >> October is Safe Sleep and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Awareness Month. Illuminate has put together some of our favorite resources to help community members and organizations alike raise awareness about this important topic, but it will take a sustained effort far beyond this month to create safe sleep for every baby everywhere in Colorado. 

    >> Click HERE to learn more about the Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership‘s mission to support families, providers, organizations and policymakers to increase infant safe sleep practices and address related barriers and disparities through education, practice change and systems improvement.

    >> Sign up to receive our safe sleep newsletter to receive more updates on this important work and ideas for parents, caregivers, organizations and communities to create safe sleep for every baby everywhere.   

    1. Colorado Health Information Dataset (CoHID), Live Birth Statistics, Counts, 2020 Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment retrieved on August 2021 from 
    2. The Network for Public Health Law. (2017). SUID Prevention, Infant Safe Sleep Law Table: Legal Provisions Relating to SUID Prevention in 5 States. Research conducted for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. To access:
    3. Child Fatality Prevention System. (2021). Child Fatality Prevention System Annual Legislative Report. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 41-42.
    4. National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). (2015). Sudden unexpected infant death legislation.

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    It’s About Respect: Building the Foundation for Change this FASD Awareness Month

    It’s About Respect: Building the Foundation for Change this FASD Awareness Month

    September is Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Awareness Month. As the Colorado affiliate of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS), our organization is raising awareness all month long to help more professionals, parents and caregivers identify FASD and build Colorado’s statewide capacity to support impacted families. To that end, we need to shine a light on the opportunity before Congress to support the FASD Respect Act right now. 

    The federal bipartisan, bicameral Advancing FASD Research, Services, and Prevention Act (S. 2238 and H.R. 4151), known as the FASD Respect Act, introduced this year would authorize $118 million for FASD prevention, screening, identification, research, and FASD-informed services by federal, state, local, tribal and private stakeholders.

    Most importantly, the bill would create a structure for the development of well-informed public policy on FASD and would provide a clear, ongoing societal commitment to advancing research and ensuring essential services for persons with FASD and their caregivers.

    FASD is a term used to describe a range of effects that can occur in a person exposed to alcohol before birth. Recent research estimates that up to 1 in 20 school-aged children in the United States may have an FASD.

    People living with an FASD can reach 100% of their potential with early interventions and support from the community. Identification of an FASD—along with appropriate supports and services—can prevent secondary impacts like dropping out of school, getting into trouble with the law and alcohol and substance use. As Marilyn, a mother committed to sharing the experiences of her family impacted by FASD through story-telling emphasized the importance of a diagnosis in her most recent Becoming FASD Aware blog, “an evaluation from an FASD-aware neuropsychologist and the resulting report, with a fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) diagnosis, helped me explain my son’s behaviors—like can’t vs. won’t. . . I now understand his behaviors in an informed light.” 

    However, alarming gaps in FASD-related diagnostic and clinical resources are common throughout the United States. In addition, though many states and local communities have programs and policies to help support FASD prevention, FASD-informed intervention practices and services are limited in most systems of care around the country, and the United States itself lacks a national agenda to unite government efforts towards a common goal. 

    Learn More About Alcohol & Pregnancy

    Alcohol is the leading cause of preventable brain injury. No amount of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.


    Find Support

    • Need a list of Colorado Providers knowledgeable about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and able to diagnose?

    • Want to connect with other parents and caregivers impacted by FASD?

    • Can’t find local services or a determination of eligibility?

    The FASD Respect Act lays the foundation to construct a national agenda to enhance:

      • Programs and Funding for FASD Research
      • Prevention, Screening and Identification Efforts
      • FASD-Informed Services

    Key Provisions of the FASD Respect Act

    The bill’s key provisions would:

      • reauthorize and strengthen existing federal FASD programs, including the Interagency Coordinating Committee on FASD; 
      • replace the defunct National FAS Taskforce with a National Advisory Council on FASD; 
      • establish new FASD programs on Building State and Tribal FASD Systems, Community Partnerships, Best Practices and Models of Care, Transitional Services and Demonstration FASD-informed Services for Individuals with FASD; 
      • provide funding to the Departments of Education and Justice for FASD education awareness and training; and, 
      • establish a FASD Center of Excellence as the go-to entity for State, Tribal and local governments and non-governmental stakeholders seeking to develop new or improve existing best practices for FASD prevention, screening and identification, diagnosis and FASD-informed intervention programs and services.

    Together, we can ensure Colorado is equipped to support families impacted by FASD and prevent even more Coloradans from being impacted in the future. This FASD Awareness Month, join us in advocating for the passage of the FASD Respect Act to help develop the infrastructure to support Colorado families for years to come.

    Participate in a virtual meeting with your member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Congressional Representatives want to hear from you about why particular subjects/pieces of legislation are important to you. Individuals with lived and/or professional experience related to FASD are uniquely positioned to help their representatives learn about FASD and how the FASD Respect Act would improve the lives of impacted families in Colorado.

    We are here to help! Illuminate Colorado and NOFAS are here to support you. If you would like to participate in a meeting with your representative, reach out to Cassie Davis and let us know who your representative is, and we will provide you with everything you need to schedule and host a meeting. 

    Not sure who your representative is? Find out here.

    **We are particularly in need of constituents of District 1 (Representative Diana DeGette), District 3 (Representative Lauren Boebert), District 6 (Representative Jason Crow), and District 7 (Representative Ed Perlmutter) to schedule and participate in meetings.**

      Ask an organization to sign on to the letter of support for the FASD Respect Act.

      Whether its an organization you work for or are involved with, or a business, agency, non-profit or other organization that would support or benefit from the passage of The FASD Respect Act, ask them to sign this letter of support.

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        Illuminating Policy in 2022

        Illuminating Policy in 2022

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        Family Voice Makes a Difference Illuminating Systemic Change

        Family Voice Makes a Difference Illuminating Systemic Change

        Families are experts on their children and by extension the programs intended to support them in strengthening their families and addressing challenges. It is for this reason that Illuminate Colorado looks to parents and caregivers with lived experiences as the driving force within coalitions and networks focused on systemic change. We connected with three Coloradans giving voice to their experiences through two collective spaces “walking the walk” so to speak when it comes to the family voice movement to get their reflections on the impact Illuminate is having in the field.  

        Increasingly, there is an effort to involve parents and caregivers from all walks of life in the decision-making process of systemic change, as well as program improvement. “Nothing for us without us! It is important that we listen and honor lived experience. We need to uplift and celebrate lived experience by saving them a seat at the table,” said Heather Hicks, a mother of two and a family voice representative for the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families. “The Partnership”, as it’s more commonly known, is a collaborative space aiming to create conditions where children and the adults in their lives can thrive. The Partnership is building collaboration at the state and local level to align funding, priorities, regulations, outcome measures and implementation – across sectors and jurisdictions to create a strong family well-being system that supports families. As the backbone support team for the Partnership, Illuminate is guiding vision and strategy, supporting aligned activities, establishing shared measurement practices, cultivating community engagement and mobilizing resources in support of this collective effort. 

        “I have worked in various spaces similar to the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families. I have been the parent that professionals have refused to listen to. I have been that parent that professionals look in the face and nod their heads then do nothing. I have been the parent that has continued to cry out and strive for equitable spaces for families so that they come and participate in the decisions that are being made for them. I have been the parent that has spent years fighting for change and has seen very little transpire from it. So to come from that and walk into a space where Illuminate has opened their arms and hearts to not only hear what we have to say, but to boldly act upon what we have to say – it is a beautiful thing,” said Hicks. 

        Hicks and Fikile Ryder, another mother of two engaged as a Partnership family voice representative, have been involved in this collaborative space for more than a year now. They both co-founded the Partnership Family & Caregiver Space and serve on the leadership team for the Partnership. “Illuminate is an unsung leader in the equity charge for lived experience. What makes them special is that they lead with compassion and heart. As an organization, they have unconditionally supported our asks and needs,” shared Ryder.

        When the two women spoke to the Partnership leadership team about fair compensation for families and lived experience working with the Partnership, they said it was an extremely awkward and difficult conversation to have. As women, they felt the social constraints against them that make it even more difficult to advocate and ask for compensation for their time and talent. Reaching out to Illuminate to talk about how they were feeling was a moment the women recognized as the moment “the tables turned a little bit and they felt like equals who were being valued and heard”, crediting Illuminate for acting quickly to strive towards a solution. “We were met with support, kindness, advocacy, ideas, kind words and overall love. This was a turning point for the Family and Caregiver Space,” said Ryder.  

        From that moment on efforts were made to demonstrate a real commitment to equity within the Partnership by compensating family voice representatives for their time away from their personal and professional lives, increasing pay for family voice partners to $50 per hour. And while Illuminate is heartened to hear that the process of getting to this milestone in family voice compensation felt positive and swift, Illuminate is also quick to credit philanthropic support and a shared desire among all of the Partnership Leadership Team for this additional investment. It is unique among the collective spaces that Illuminate supports right now, however, honoring the lived experiences of families is not. The Colorado Substance Exposed Newborns Steering Committee was established in 2008 and is a subcommittee of the Colorado Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force. In 2019, the Family Advisory Board (FAB) to the steering committee was formed in order to elevate the voices of families who have experienced, directly or indirectly, the impacts of substance use during pregnancy.

        Diane Smith is a mother of three who has a leadership role within this steering committee, as well as the Family Advisory Board. “It is important to involve families with lived experiences as voice partners in program improvements and systemic change because it is the best way for our systems to evolve. When people are trying to identify what works, what doesn’t work, and how we change things for the next family, it is important for families to give input and share their experience,” said Smith.   

        The FAB has been instrumental to the understanding of barriers in seeking support, health care, including treatment and other services, and informing of priority-setting within the steering committee to raise awareness and best serve the needs of families impacted by substance use. Stepping into an advocacy role like this one can be hard for parents and caregivers and Smith points to a strong relationship with Hattie Landry, Illuminate strategic initiatives manager for making her experience a positive one. 

        “It is important for FAB members to feel like they are vetted into the situation and feel comfortable with the group of individuals before they share their story. Hattie makes us feel comfortable, she shows a lot of empathy as a person and colleague,” said Smith. When asked what decision-makers can do to support family voice partners and what non family-voice partners can do to create spaces where everyone feels valued and heard, Smith reminds organizers to be flexible and meet families where they are at by communicating by phone, email, text or even in person to ease the stress of sharing their story. 

        Five Things We've Learned from Collaborating with Family Partners

        Illuminate’s work within the Spectrum of Prevention fostering coalitions and networks to ensure continued progress on policy priorities, identify opportunities to protect existing policies that are serving families and enhance policy implementation has expanded over the last several years. The organization now supports eight different collaborative spaces to advance child maltreatment prevention in Colorado, with Landry facilitating discussions with family voice partners across many of these spaces. She gives five quick tips for organizations and collaborative spaces based on what we’ve learned from collaborating with family partners: 

        1. Ask family voice partners what their goals & visions are for systems-level projects.
        2. Involve family voice partners from the very start of projects.
        3. Don’t make assumptions about what families need. Ask questions, listen, learn, adapt, and grow.
        4. Provide equitable compensation to family voice partners for their time and expertise.
        5. Support family voice partners and non family-voice partners to create spaces where everyone is and feels valued and heard, creating equitable decision-making processes. 
        The Time is Now to Make Wise Investments on Local and State Levels

        The Time is Now to Make Wise Investments on Local and State Levels

        In the months and years ahead, Colorado State and local leaders have the opportunity to spend both American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and Opioid Settlement Funds. Being a local-control state is both a blessing and a curse in so many ways when it comes to investing in strengthening families. On one hand it allows local county commissioners and government agencies the flexibility necessary to listen to the children and families in the community and respond to the unique challenges they face. On the other hand, it requires a considerable amount of time and thoughtful coordination to communicate best practices, evidence-informed research, and lessons lived and learned to help county commissioners and State leaders alike make informed investments.

        Through our roles as both a convener of collaborative spaces and experts on the prevention of child maltreatment, Illuminate Colorado proudly guided the collaborative development of investment recommendations to aid State and local decision-makers in prioritizing family strengthening to the most of this opportunity. Illuminate led both the Colorado Partnership for Thriving Families ( the Partnership) and the Colorado Substance Exposed Newborns (SEN) Steering Committee, a subcommittee of the Colorado Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force, and it’s Family Advisory Board, regarding ARPA funds and Opioid Settlement Funds respectively, to identify concrete investments Colorado can make to transform systems and services to build brighter childhoods.  

        Investing American Rescue Plan Act Funds to Prevent Child Maltreatment and Promote Family Well-Being

        The pandemic has impacted so many different aspects of our communities, and the challenge on local, state, and federal levels is to determine how to prioritize allocation of these ARPA funds. Decision-makers within county and state agencies are having to balance and prioritize everything from physical infrastructure to community infrastructure.

        The Partnership members including; Colorado Counties Inc., state and local public health and human services departments, families with lived experiences and Illuminate Colorado, created recommendations for county commissioners to guide investing ARPA funds in early childhood and reap long-term benefits of these investments to build stronger communities and families. 

        Wise investment of American Rescue Plan Act funds will go a long way to address pronounced need and opportunities during pregnancy through the first five years of life.

        Nobel-prize economist, James Heckman, shows that every dollar spent on high quality, birth-to-five programs for disadvantaged children delivers a 13% per annum return on investment.

        The recommendations include an overview of why it is important to invest in the prevention of child maltreatment and promotion of family-well being, data on the pronounced needs and opportunities of families during pregnancy and through the first five years of life, and specific recommendations on how ARPA funds can be leveraged to support families in Colorado.

        Setting Up a Framework for Dedicating Opioid Settlement Funds to Children and Families Impacted by Perinatal Substance Use

        In the coming months and years, Colorado will also continue to receive funds from settlements and court rulings resulting from numerous lawsuits against drug companies, distributors and pharmacies over their role in the opioid crisis. It’s money that can — and should — be channeled to programs and services that equitably serve all families through prevention and reduction of substance use during pregnancy and provide multigenerational support for families to thrive. 

        Investing in tailored substance use disorder treatment and recovery services for families leads to better outcomes, cost savings and stronger communities. 

        While pregnancy and motherhood can be a time of increased motivation for substance use disorder treatment and recovery, an absence of tailored services creates a gap between need and access. Substance use disorder treatment that supports the family as a unit has proven to be effective for maintaining maternal recovery and child well-being. Residential treatment programs serving women and children produced nearly $4 in savings for every $1 invested through reductions in child welfare costs, crime, foster care and low birth weight babies.

        With both support and leadership from Illuminate, the Colorado Substance Exposed Newborns Steering Committee and its Family Advisory Board which elevates the voices of families who have experienced, directly or indirectly, the impacts of substance use during pregnancy, jointly developed a set of guidelines and recommendations for how opioid settlement funds with a focus on building Colorado’s statewide capacity to: 

        • align efforts, 
        • apply lessons from data, and 
        • recognize and respond to emerging needs.

        Share these recommendations with your regional, county and state agency decision-makers.

        American Rescue Plan Act Funds Recommendations

        Opioid Settlement Funds Recommendations

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