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La Clinica opioid project’s new director receives $5,000 donation

by Bill Knowles

During the steering committee meeting at the Holiday Inn Express at DIA, from R to L Travis Nelson, Dr. Uma, Elmer Emery, and Kebra Smith-Bolden during a brainstorming session. Photo courtesy Travis Nelson.

WALSENBURG — Several things happened at the Oct. 21 meeting of the steering committee for the La Clinica medical cannabis project. Travis Nelson was elected as the executive director. The project is aimed at fighting addiction to opioids.

In a surprise move, Elmer Jay Emery, a council member with the St. Croix Chippewa tribe in Wisconsin, presented the committee with a $5,000 donation to the project and committed to raising an additional $50,000. The $50,000 will pay for repairs to the La Clinica building, purchase a computer system, pay for malpractice insurance, and license doctors who may want to volunteer their services. Any funds left over will be put into an account to help cover the cost of transportation for the doctors.

One of the projects approved by the committee was the Jan. 1, 2018 launch of a Welldone Crowd Funding site. Dr. Elias Jackson and Kyle Hill have been doing some research on possible grant funding from various foundations.

Opioid addiction has been a scourge in both Las Animas and Huerfano counties for many years. Both counties led the state in per capita overdoses and death from overdoses for nearly a decade, from 2005 to 2014.

According to a report in the New York Times, the opioid epidemic kills about 90 Americans a day, roughly the same number as killed in automobile accidents.

This epidemic had its beginning in the 1990s with the increase in prescription painkillers. Over the decades other drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl, began being used by those whose doctors cut them off from prescription painkillers they’d become addicted to. The new drugs and were cheaper and far more accessible, which has allowed the epidemic to go global.

President Trump, in his speech on the opioid epidemic in the U.S. on Oct. 26, 2017, characterized the epidemic as a national public health emergency and directed the executive government to “use every appropriate emergency authority” to fight the crisis.

According to a report published in Politifact.com on Oct. 30, more than 64,000 people died in 2016 from drug overdoses, the majority of which were linked to opioids, such as oxycodone, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl and heroin.

The La Clinica project, and more specifically its goal of producing solid scientific data on the effects of certain endocannibinoids on opioid addiction, is gaining national attention. Many believe that endocannibinoids used to combat opioid addiction stand a greater chance of success than many other programs. However scientific data on the thesis is still in its infancy. The La Clinica project will gather the raw data and the campus will analyze it and develop treatments based on the data. Last week on his swing through Walsenburg, Colorado gubanatorial candidate Jared Polis said that where there is access to medical marijuana, opioid addiction goes down 25 percent.

As early as 1999 it was known that the delta-nine tetrahydrocannibinoid (THC) “strongly reduced the reinforcing properties of morphine and the severity of the withdrawal symptoms,” says a study published in Science Magazine, Jan. 15, 1999, page 401.

Other projects that might be pursued are working on treatment for posttraumatic shock disorder (PTSD) followed by developing treatments for patients diagnosed with cancer.

Nelson would like to see three clinics: the first in Gardner to be more academic, and others in Trinidad and Pueblo. Once that is achieved, Nelson says “…then war can be waged on the opioid epidemic.”

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