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Utah Gets an ‘A’ for Fighting Child Sex Trafficking

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 5, 2019
 

UTAH GETS AN ‘A’ FOR FIGHTING CHILD SEX TRAFFICKING
Shared Hope International Scores Enforcement Standards of Protection for Minors
 

SALT LAKE CITY – The State of Utah is now ranked among the top in the nation for its dedication to the fight against minor sex trafficking, according to Shared Hope International. See Utah’s report card here.  

In its yearly rankings, Utah received an ‘A’ for its dedication and strength of the state’s laws related to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. In 2011, Utah received an ‘F’. The amount of progress is due to many factors and dedicated partners, including the tireless efforts of Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, the Attorney General SECURE Strike Force, the ICAC Task Force, the UTIP Task Force, legislation passed by the Utah Legislature and the dedication and commitment of the Governor’s office.

“Combatting human trafficking is an absolute priority for our office,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “There are incredible, dedicated people who work hard every day as part of this effort, and that work is far from over. We will continue to do everything we can to fight this heinous activity.” 

Every year, Shared Hope International, a non-profit organization dedicated to eradicating minor sex trafficking, releases report cards for each state in the nation with a grade based on the strength of their laws related to the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Grades are based on an annual review of state laws as analyzed under the Protected Innocence Challenge Legislative Framework.

States are graded on the analysis and review of six areas:

  • Criminalization of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking 
  • Criminal Provisions for Demand (those who buy)
  • Criminal Provisions for Traffickers (those who sell)
  • Criminal Provisions for Facilitators (those who help)
  • Protective Provisions for Child Victims 
  • Criminal Justice Tools for Investigation & Prosecution

Shared Hope International is a non-profit organization that works to prevent sex trafficking and to bring justice to women and children who have been victimized through sex trafficking. 
 

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Native American Heritage Day

November 29, 2019

Today we celebrate Native American Heritage Day and urge our friends to take the time to recognize the rich cultural heritage and the significant impact of Native American culture on our past, present, and future. We honor their achievements and the numerous contributions Native Americans have made and continue to make to the United States and the world in the fields of agriculture, medicine, music, language, and art. You can learn more here: https://utah.com/culture/native-american-tribes

The Utah Attorney General’s Office encourages Utahns to join them in celebrating this great day by educating yourself and others on the great Native American tribes in Utah and the unique history and challenges they have faced both historically and in the present. 

On this Thanksgiving weekend, let’s celebrate and honor the many ways Native Americans enrich our nation and the great State of Utah.


Happy Thanksgiving!

November 28, 2019

Today as we gather with our families and reflect on the many blessings in our lives, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes shares his well-wishes for Thanksgiving:

On behalf of the amazing public servants with whom I’m privileged to serve, we wish everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

We’re blessed to live in this nation and thank all who serve and protect it. While we celebrate Thanksgiving, others in America and around the world are suffering from abuse, illness, addiction, depression, hunger, homelessness, as victims of crime, and in so many other ways.

We pray for and wish them all measures of peace, comfort, and hope as members of our human family.


Utah Opioid Task Force Convenes, Says Farewell to DEA District-Agent-in-Charge Brian Besser

November 25, 2019

Today, the Utah Opioid Task Force convened to discuss the opioid crisis in Utah and to consider new programs and resources.

Miss it? Listen to the audio here:

Trauma and Suicide Screening and Response

Dr. Brooks Keeshin with the University of Utah and Primary Children’s Hospital presented on the link between childhood trauma, suicide, and substance abuse. Keeshin has been working with the Children’s Justice Centers to help screen children at risk and get them the resources they need.

The Appropriate Use of the DEC Exam

Dr. Toni Laskey with the University of Utah and Primary Children’s Hospital presented on her work to create more effective medical exams and care for drug endangered children.

Sober Peer

Ed DeShields presented on Sober Peer, an upcoming app for those struggling with addiction, powered by an artificial intelligence-driven system that measures recovery, predicts outcomes, and suggests “best”, next steps for treatment.

For more information: soberpeer.com.

BluNovus

James Hadlock presented on the need for personal connection in the fight against opioid addiction and mental illness. Additionally, he presented on BluNovus, a company that helps employers connect employees to mental health resources and works to end the stigma.

For more information: blunovus.com

Farewell to DEA District-Agent-in-Charge Brian Besser

Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes presented an award to DEA District-in-Charge Brian Besser for his incredible work in the fight against the opioid crisis in Utah and in the Opioid Task Force. Besser will head to Washington, D.C. in a new role in the DEA. We congratulate Besser and thank him for all that he has done. He will be dearly missed here, but we look forward to working with him in his new role.


Utah Suicide Rate Decreases for First Time in Over a Decade

November 15, 2019

For the first time in over a decade, Utah’s suicide rate fell slightly in 2019, according to the fiscal year 2019 report of State Suicide Prevention Programs by the state Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. This decrease means that we are doing something right, but the work isn’t done. Now is the time to increase our efforts.

According to the report, the suicide rates dropped from 22.7 to 22.2. “The decrease is not statistically significant nor does it represent a trend change, however, it is worth noting given the year-over-year increase for many years,” said the report. Suicide remains a leading cause of death in the State of Utah. An average of 592 Utahns die by suicide each year, and an average of 4,538 Utahns attempt suicide.

Below is an excerpt from an article written by Marjorie Cortez in the Deseret News: After decade of increases, Utah’s suicide rate dropped slightly in 2018, report says.

At first glimpse, there was a lot of excitement, even tears, when the 2018 data indicated Utah’s suicide rate had not increased over the previous year, said Michael Staley, with the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner.

“Then there was this moment of pause, where we kind of had to look around and say, ‘But what does this mean?’

“I think that is so important to remind folks this is not the time to pack our bags and go home and call this a win. This is the time to double down on what we’re doing because there’s evidence here, even though it’s kind of arbitrary and not causal, but there seems to be some suggestion here that what we’re doing is working,” said Staley, who coordinates suicide prevention research.

Barry Rose, crisis services manager for the University Neuropsychiatric Institute, said the slight decrease “at least indicates we’re on the right track and we’ve made some investments that are paying off.”

Reducing suicide deaths “was really our first major goal, not that our group here is the reason this happened, but we would like to think we were part of it. I think all of us collectively, our goal as the state, county mental health division and everyone involved, is just to see we could stop it from increasing, at least to level off, and continue to work toward decreasing those numbers,” he said.

Much work remains, Staley said.

Suicide is the seventh-leading cause of death in Utah, and the suicide rates in the Rocky Mountain states lead the nation. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Utah’s suicide rate ranks sixth nationally. Montana has the highest rate followed by Alaska, Wyoming, New Mexico and Idaho, according to the foundation.

The most recent data says 6,039 Utahns were seen in emergency departments for suicide attempts, according to 2014 numbers, and 2,314 Utahns were hospitalized for self-inflicted injuries including suicide attempts.

The Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse report also notes that self-reported suicide attempts decreased from 7.1% to 6.9% from 2017 to 2019 after multiple years with increases.

Utilization of the SafeUT app, which provides 24/7 real-time crisis intervention for youths, is also growing. In the month of October, the app received 3,700 tips and chats.

Suicide prevention starts with each of us. Download the SafeUT app, reach out to those around you, listen without prejudice, and offer support.

If you or someone you know is struggling and/or having thoughts of suicide, please reach out. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text the Crisis Text Line (text HELLO to 741741), or message a trained crisis counselor through the SafeUT app. These support lines are available 24/7, 365 days a year.

The Utah Attorney General’s Office is proud to partner with organizations such as the Jason Foundation, the SafeUT Commission, the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI), and Life’s Worth Living Foundation. These organizations help raise awareness of the prevalence of suicide in the State of Utah and provide resources and education on suicide prevention.


Honoring our Veterans on Veterans Day 2019

November 11, 2019

On this Veteran’s Day, we at the Utah Attorney General’s Office express our deepest gratitude to all our veterans. We honor those brave men and women who have served through hardships and sacrifice, who courageously fought for our nation to protect our rights and freedoms. We mourn for those who made the ultimate sacrifice and we offer our greatest condolences to those that have lost their loved ones.

Today we say thank you. Thank you to all who have served in uniform, both overseas and on American soil, for sacrificing both on duty and upon returning home. We express our gratitude to the families of veterans who gave up their loved one for long periods of deployment.

We would like to emphasis Utah@EASE, a referral program led by the Utah Attorney General’s Office that finds volunteer attorneys to provide pro bono services for veterans and servicemembers. For more information about this initiative, go here.  

We honor our wounded warriors, those missing in action, those who have fallen, those that continue to serve, and those that have retired from service. We encourage you to commemorate our veterans this day and every day.


Far More Than Just an App

November 8, 2019

The following article was originally published in the Fall 2019 Silicon Slopes Magazine.

SafeUT is far more than an app; it is a mental health support system that acts to provide professional help for youth in crisis. The app is a free statewide service providing real-time crisis intervention to Utah’s students, parents, and educators.

SafeUT-Annual-Report-Graphics---JPG-11-6

Crisis help can be provided through texting, which factors into SafeUT’s success with youth more comfortable texting than talking on a phone. Use is 100% confidential, and crisis line counselors do not inquire about identifying information except in emergency situations. SafeUT has been recognized nationwide for its effectiveness in saving lives and de-escalating potential school incidents.

SafeUT allows students to open a two-way messaging service with licensed clinicians, call a crisis counselor directly, or submit confidential tips to school administrators on bullying, threats, violence, etc. The app is staffed by trained crisis counselors at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The program was developed with funding from the Utah State Legislature in collaboration with the Utah Attorney General’s Office, the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI) and U of U Health, the Utah State Board of Education, and the Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition.

SafeUT-Annual-Report-Graphics---JPG-12-2
SafeUT-Annual-Report-Graphics---JPG-13-1


Enrolled schools are listed within the SafeUT app and school administrators are trained to handle submitted tips received through the app. At the end of the 2018-2019 academic school year, 81.73% of all Utah K-12 schools and Universities (including public, private, and charter) have been enrolled in SafeUT. All tips submitted through the app are immediately reviewed by UNI staff. Non-urgent tips are sent daily to the appropriate school administrators, and tips of a more threatening nature (including violence or planned school attacks) are triaged by crisis counselors who may involve law enforcement and administrators to quickly resolve the crisis. During the 2018-2019 academic school year, the SafeUT app received tips about 245 unique potential school threats, which includes reports of explosives, guns, knives, and planned school attacks.

“Since adopting SafeUT in our school, we have not had a student take their own life in over 3 years, I credit SafeUT with that amazing statistic.” – Brian McGill, Principal at Alta High School

PLANS FOR EXPANSION

In 2018, SafeUT expanded to Utah higher education institutions and Utah technical colleges. In 2019, there are plans to expand services to the Utah National Guard and the The SafeUT Commission is currently working with several states to implement similar programs.

University of Utah Health Plans is a proud partner and advocate for the SafeUT program. SafeUT is a phenomenal example of how mental health care is all about meeting those in crisis right where they are.

“Removing the stigma surrounding mental health care by providing better access to mental health professionals and resources is a main priority for us now and in the future. As part of this initiative, we will be the new behavioral health plan provider for Summit County, UT with plans to expand into other counties in 2020.” – Russell Vinik MD, Chief Medical Officer, U of U Health Plans

A HUNDRED THANK YOU’S

“A young LGBTQ+ student came to our booth and whispered to me, ‘Do you actually work with SafeUT or are you a volunteer?’ I responded that I do work here and he continued to tear up and tell me, “Thank you, thank you, thank you, a hundred thank you’s” and proceeded to hug me and continue to thank me. He said he used the app when he was at his lowest and thanks to our advice and resources he has been able to get help and support.” – A SafeUT Worker

Read the article in the 2019 issue of Silicon Slopes Magazine here.


National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

October 29, 2019

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and the Utah Attorney General’s Office is urging Utahns to stay safe online by using this year’s theme: Own IT. Secure IT. Protect IT.

With the internet integrated into almost every facet of our lives, from apps, smartwatches, smart home hubs and controllers, computers, and smartphones, it’s imperative to practice cybersecurity, no matter where you are or what you are doing.

Own IT

Update Privacy Settings

Your personal information is valuable, and you can control who and where you are sharing it. Make sure your update your privacy settings to your comfort level including geotagging, which allows anyone to see where you are at any given time.  

Be Careful What You Click & Share

Seemingly random information, such as places you frequent, where you work, and where you live, can be everything a criminal needs to know in order to target you and your belongings – both in the real world and online. Always keep your Social Security number, birthday, address, full name, and passwords private.

Keep Tabs on Your Apps

Always get rid of apps you no longer use and review what permissions your apps have. Make sure you only download apps from trusted sources and enable automatic app updates so you can stay protected from cyber threats.

Secure IT

Double Your Login Protection with Secure Passwords

Having a strong password is imperative to keeping you and your information protected online. Be creative. Use a long password and don’t make passwords that would be easy to guess. Use a mixture of upper and lowercase letters as well as numbers and symbols. Lastly, enable multi-factor authentication. Learn more about this security process here.

How to Spot and Avoid Phishing

Scammers use email or text to trick you into giving up your personal information. These emails may appear as if they are coming from a legitimate company, website, or app. The email and text messages may tell you they’ve noticed suspicious activity on your account, claim there’s a problem with your billing information, include a fake invoice, or want you to click on a link to make a payment. Always double check the information by looking up the business entity and their information online.

Protect IT

Secure Your Wi-Fi Network

Before you make that purchase or send sensitive information, make sure you are connected to a secure network. Public, unsecured networks provide little security and allows people access to your files and information. Either use a virtual private network (VPN) or use your phone as a hotspot.

Stay Protected While Connected

Keep your software updated to the latest version available. Maintaining your security settings will keep your information secure and safe. You can enable automatic updates to run and enable your security software to run regular scans.

For more tips to protect your personal information, go here.


Opioids Have Killed at Least 460,000 Americans

October 25, 2019

Opioids have killed at least 460,000 Americans over the last 20 years. That’s approaching the death toll of World War II and the Vietnam War combined.

It is a priority of the Utah Attorney General’s Office to combat the opioid crisis in Utah. The AG’s Office has joined states across the nation in multiple lawsuits against some of the nation’s largest pharmaceutical companies, such as Purdue Pharmaceuticals – a company that additionally faces hundreds of lawsuits by other government entities. There are many more ongoing investigations regarding the company’s primary impact on the opioid crisis.

That’s not all.  There are many more lawsuits filed against pharmaceutical companies from other states, cities, counties, and Native American tribes. Below is an excerpt from the Deseret News article, Opioids killed at least 460,000 Americans, Now the manufacturers face a reckoning, detailing the process.

While settlements and rumors of cash awards circulate, the sheer volume of lawsuits and proposals and different governments involved — including states and cities and Native American tribes — means any final award tally is very much up in the air.

Lawsuits may be negotiated separately, then there’s a process for determining who gets what and that’s bound to be complicated, with formulas that consider many different factors. Those factors include how big a state’s population is and how severe the problem has been in each one, income levels and more, said Richard Piatt, spokesman for Utah’s Attorney General’s Office. It amounts to a lot of moving pieces — and the process can move quite slowly.

Nor is all the help coming from lawsuits. The Trump administration announced in September $1.8 billion in grants to help states and local governments combat the opioid epidemic, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Utah’s share is $24 million.

Opioids Killed at least 460,000 Americans. Now the manufacturers face a reckoning.
By Lois M. Collins, Deseret News

The opioid crisis affects people of every age, gender, race, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. The Utah Attorney General’s Office urges everyone to safely, and appropriately dispose of unused and expired medications in your home to help combat the opioid crisis. Tomorrow is Utah Take Back Day from 10 AM to 2 PM across the state. Find the disposal box closest to you at utahtakeback.org.

In addition, Walgreens houses medication disposal boxes in their stores. Riverton City recently launched a new medication disposal program that integrated large, blue disposal boxes containing NarcX, a solution that dissolves and destroys opioid medications.

If you or someone you know is struggling with opioid addiction, make sure you keep a Naloxone kit on hand – you will save a life.


Mark Your Calendars: Utah Take Back Day on Oct. 26th

October 23, 2019

Mark your calendars for Utah Take Back Day on Saturday, October 26th from 10AM to 2PM across the state.

Sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Take Back Day provides the opportunity to safely and anonymously dispose of unused and expired prescriptions. When unused prescriptions are left in the house, you can unintentionally become a dealer. Appropriate disposal of prescriptions prevents any misuse of these medications.

Find the closest disposal box to you here: http://utahtakeback.org/.

The following items can be returned:

  • prescription medicines;
  • over the counter medicines;
  • vitamins;
  • pet medication;
  • medicated ointments and lotions;
  • inhalers;
  • liquid medicines in glass or leak-proof containers (up to 12 oz); and
  • medicine samples.

The following items are not returnable:

  • needles, lancets, or syringes;
  • thermometers;
  • aerosol cans;
  • empty containers;
  • bloody or infectious waste;
  • personal care products (i.e. non-medicated shampoo);
  • hydrogen peroxide; and
  • business waste.

For advice on the safe disposal of these items, contact your pharmacist, local health department, or call 1-800-RECYCLE (1-800-732-9235).


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