By Tori Mason

DENVER (CBS4)– More than 400 health professionals gathered in Colorado on Thursday to focus on fighting opioid addiction. There were 558 reported opioid overdose deaths in 2017 in Colorado, from both prescription opioids and illegal opioids, like heroin.

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Ozzie Cabral was one of the recovering addicts who spoke at the Colorado Opioid Safety Summit.

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Ozzie Cabral (credit: CBS)

“It felt like I was on a planet,” described Cabral, “This universe is between you and Earth. There is no rocket, there’s no nothing that can get you back. That’s how it felt for a long time.”

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Cabral has been clean for 18 years. Now he’s using his experience to guide others down a better path.

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“There was just something that said, if I stay the same I’m going to die,” said Cabral. “If you think you know what recovery is going to bring you, you’re cutting yourself short. It’s really going to bring you so much more.”

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The Colorado Hospital Association and the Colorado Department of Human Services joined the Office of Behavioral Health to host the event.

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Through $4 million in federally funded opioid grants, the Office of Behavior Health. is helping Coloradans with opioid disorders access treatment. One of the strategies introduced at the summit involved early treatment in addicts.

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“When somebody comes into the emergency department, and they have an opiate disorder, we can actually get them started on treatment before they leave,” said Cristen Bates, Office of Behavior Health.

Cristen Bates (credit: CBS)

The goal is to make sure addicts who come to the emergency department get continuing treatment. This pilot program is only in two Colorado hospitals, St. Anthony North and UCHealth, but research shows the treatment belongs in more.

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“People who have a warm hand off to treatment, and start in the ER, are much more likely to be in recovery 6 months, 9 months, 12 months later,” said Bates.

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The grant also funds increased access to medication-assisted treatment and provides buprenorphine and alternative pain medicine training to doctors. The Office of Behavior Health is also working with partners to launch mobile medication-assisted treatment units to increase access to treatment in rural areas.

Tori Mason