In 1983, a group of nurses met to discuss the problems faced by their colleagues with drug or alcohol problems. At that time, nurses with substance use disorders were publicly sanctioned and there was no mechanism or program to assist them with treatment options, monitoring of safety to practice, professional peer support or return to safe practice. The lack of any such program resulted in a great waste of education, skill, experience and life.
With $300 in start-up funds from the Colorado Nurses Association, we incorporated as Nurses United for Recovery, Support and Education, Successfully Established (N.U.R.S.E.S. of Colorado) in April 1984. Funding was awarded through a $9,500 contract with the Colorado Alcohol and Drug Abuse Division (ADAD) to provide Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services to nurses in the Denver/Boulder area. Though additional funding from The Colorado Trust in 1985, we were able to expand services statewide.
During the late 1980s, PAS collaborated with the Colorado Nurses Association, the Colorado Pharmacist Recovery Network and the Colorado Pharmacist Society to effect legislation for statutory alternative to discipline programs for professionals. Legislative efforts were successful and license fee funded programs were implemented through the Department of Regulatory Agencies in the early 1990s.
Throughout the 1990s the agency continued to expand. Contracts and grants were awarded from the Colorado Board of Pharmacy; Colorado Board of Nursing; Colorado Board of Dental Examiners; the Colorado Department of Corrections and the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. We rebranded as Peer Assistance Services, Inc. in 1994 to better reflect our work.
From 2000 to 2004, PAS was awarded expanded funding from the Colorado Department of Corrections to provide case management services to offenders statewide, addition funds were awarded by the state to expand employee assistance services to healthcare workers and small businesses, and services for professionals were expanded to veterinarians and attorneys.
In an effort to reach individuals before they develop substance use disorders, PAS began expanding prevention and early intervention programming through multiple federal grants in 2004. The agency received funding from Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Administration for Children and Families, Department of Education, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and the Small Business Administration. Prevention Programs included: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Prevention, Mentoring Children of Incarcerated Parents, Youth in the Workplace, Adams County Connections youth mentoring program, HIV/Hepatitis C and Substance Abuse Prevention for Minorities in Re-entry from Incarceration, Healthy Relationships Program, Paul D. Coverdell Drug-Free Workplace Program, and Screening Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT).
In 2007, Peer Assistance Services began providing Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention services through funding from the Division of Behavioral Health. In 2008, PAS was awarded the Nursing Peer Health Assistance/Nurse Alternative to Discipline Program. In 2011, PAS was awarded a second SBIRT grant.
The Veterinary Peer Health Assistance Program and the Mental Health Professionals Peer Health Assistance Program contracts were awarded to PAS in January 2013 and 2014, respectively.
In 2015, through an affirmative effort, PAS sought to identify funding to sustain SBIRT services after SAMHSA grant funding ended in 2016. The Marijuana Tax Cash Fund was identified to continue this work. Funding for SBIRT was awarded from the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing in 2016 and 2017 to provide continued SBIRT training and technical assistance and to promote a statewide public awareness campaign on alcohol use and health.
Since our modest beginnings, we have served tens of thousands Coloradans from all walks of life. We have persevered to provide quality, accessible prevention and intervention services focused on substance use with integrity, respect, and compassion.