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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 Opioid Task Force Convenes to Discuss the Opioid Crisis in Utah

June 26, 2019

This week, the Utah Opioid Task Force convened for their quarterly meeting to discuss the opioid crisis in Utah and consider new programs and resources.

Suicide & Opioid Addiction

Cathy Bledsoe from Hope4Utah presented to the Opioid Task Force on Hope Squads, a peer suicide prevention program. Hope Squads are made up of students elected for their kindness. These students are trained by professionals to watch for at-risk students and identify warning signs, provide friendship, and seek help from adults. The Hope Squad model was created in the late 90s by Greg Hudnall, a principal in the Provo School District who realized that too many lives were being lost and peers were an important tool in solving the problem. Data from the Provo School District has shown that these Hope Squads are invaluable in preventing suicide and that since their creation, student suicides have gone down. There are now 207 schools in Utah participating in the Hope Squad program, with new schools joining in all the time.

“Suicide is important to hear and talk about when fighting the opioid crisis,” said Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes. “It’s reaching the root of the problem – that people are in pain and trying to get rid of that pain.”

Along with programs like SafeUT, Hope Squads provide support and resources to students in Utah. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in youths ages 10-19. Utah alone is ranked 5th in the nation for suicide rates.

The Effect of Opioids on Children

Carrie Jensen from the CJC Program and Allison Smith from RIC-AAU urged the importance of understanding the effect that opioids have on children. When their parents are suffering from addiction, children are at a higher risk for having emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems. Additionally, Jensen and Smith discussed the effects that tobacco can have on children. One particularly worrisome issue is that vape cartridges can be laced with other drugs such as Fentanyl that can have detrimental effects from addiction to death.

U of U Emergency Opioid Use Disorder Program

Peter Taillac, a Clinical Professor of Emergency Medicine with the University of Utah, and Paula Cook, an Assistant Clinical Professor of Addiction Medicine with the University of Utah, presented on the recovery programs provided by the University Neuropsychiatric Institute (UNI). They explained that addiction is a chronic illness and needs to be treated this way. Currently, when opioid users end up in the emergency department due to overdose or a willingness to get treatment, doctors give them resources and a referral to treatment, which users rarely follow up on. However, this new model proposes that emergency room doctors provide opioid addicts with a prescription for Buprenorphine, a medication that is used to wean users off of opioids, and schedules a follow-up for the user to meet with counselors at UNI. Users are also paired up with peer support coaches who have successfully overcome addiction and are given a case manager. UNI then provides treatment for free to the user for thirty days, after which they contact a community partner to provide housing and other resources for recovering addicts. Compared to the current practice, this model drastically reduces opioid usage of addicts and increases the number of addicts who continue long-term treatment compared. While this service is currently only available at the University Hospital, Professors Taillac and Cook are working with other medical centers to help them adopt the model.

Best of State – Public Works

This year, the Utah Opioid Task Force was honored to be the recipient of the 2018 Best of State Public Works Award. The Best of State Awards recognize outstanding individuals, organizations and businesses in Utah. More than 100 judges review the nominations and determine the winners based on achievement in the field of endeavor, innovation or creativity in approaches, techniques, methods or processes, and contribution to the quality of life in Utah.

The Utah Opioid Task Force is dedicated to combatting the opioid epidemic in Utah and works in collaboration with groups nationally and across the state to address the effects of opioid addiction. You can help combat the opioid crisis by steering clear of opioids, getting rid of unused meds, reaching out if you or someone you know is suffering from opioid addiction, learning to recognize an overdose, and learning how to use a Naloxone kit. Learn more here.

Youth Advisors: Teens Changing the World

Monday, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes swore five teens into the Youth Advisory Committee during a ceremony held in their honor for all the tremendous work they have done in the last year.

Affectionately nicknamed the Teen Titans, these five teens have worked closely with organizations such as SafeUT, the Children’s Justice Centers Program, and the Utah Gun Safety Program where they attended focus groups, provided suggestions on how to make things more teen-friendly, and gave feedback on how to interact with teens to make them feel comfortable.

Additionally, during the holiday season in 2018, they assisted law enforcement in Operation Give Back, a day dedicated to identifying and taking care of families in need. The Teen Titans rode along with the Utah Attorney General’s investigators and other law enforcement in delivering gifts and encouraging the families visited.

The Youth Advisory Committee provides invaluable insights into ways organizations can identify with teens and streamline programs and apps to make them not only appealing to teens but also to make them more user-friendly to all age groups.

If you are interested in joining the Youth Advisory Committee, applications will be accepted soon. Look out on our social media and website for future notifications of available applications. More details will follow.

National Crime Victim’s Rights Week

In commemoration of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), April 7–13, 2019, the Utah NCVRW committee and supporting organizations will hold several events to raise awareness about crime victims’ rights and introduce the community to important resources and services.

According to the most recent Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, U.S. residents age 12 or older experienced 3.1 million violent victimizations and U.S. households experienced an estimated 13.3 million property crimes in 2017.

This year’s theme – Honoring Our Past. Creating Hope for the Future. – encourages recognition, honor, and respect toward crime victim advocates, allied professionals, and selfless volunteers who have courageously worked for increased rights for crime victims. This year’s theme invites us to look toward a future of inclusive, accessible, and innovative resources and services for survivors.

The Utah NCVRW committee and supporting organizations lead communities throughout the state in their annual observances of NCVRW by promoting victims’ rights and issues and honoring crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf.

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week kicks off Saturday, April 6, 2019 with a Utah Grizzlies game. This event will be followed by a Candlelight Vigil, Sunday, April 7, located on the south steps of the Utah State Capitol. Survivors of crime will be highlighted and as well as those in our community that are advocating for expanded support and services to communities affected by crime. 

Below is a complete list of events and opportunities to support and advocate for those whose lives have been affected by crime:

  • Saturday, April 6: Come out for Utah Grizzlies Night at the Maverick Center to kick off our NCVRW. Game starts at 7:00 p.m. and tickets are $10 each.
  • Sunday, April 7: Join us for a Candlelight Vigil at the Utah State Capitol to honor the lives of lost victims.
  • Monday, April 8: The Utah Museum of Contemporary Arts will host a “Healing Through Art” night starting at 6:00 p.m.
  • Wednesday, April 10 – LGBTQ2S Night: The Sorenson Unity Center is showing a special screening of “Leitis in Waiting” – a feature documentary and short film about a group of transgender
    women rising to find their place in a South Pacific kingdom. Screening starts at 6:00 p.m. and is located at 1383 South 900 West in Salt Lake.
  • Wednesday, April 10: Children’s Justice Centers (CJC) will host a Multi-disciplinary Day statewide. Contact your local CJC for more information.
  • Saturday, April 13: Join us between 11:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. for a Fun and Festive Family Day with resources, cultural activities, music, and food trucks at Jordan Park – home of the International Peace Gardens.

All events, except the Utah Grizzlies game, are free and open to the public. For additional information about this year’s NCVRW and how to assist victims in your community, please visit the NCVRW Facebook page.

“For too long, the victims of crime have been the forgotten persons of our criminal justice system. Rarely do we give victims the help they need or the attention they deserve. Yet the protection of our citizens – to guard them from becoming victims – is the primary purpose of our penal laws. Thus, each new victim personally represents an instance in which our system has failed to prevent crime. Lack of concern for victims compounds that failure.”

President Ronald W. Reagan – April 1, 1981, on signing the Proclamation declaring the First National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

Utah NCVRW works with the following organizations throughout the state:
Utah Museum of Contemporary Art; Peace House; PIK2R; Utah Pride Center; Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office; Salt Lake City Police Department; Restoring Ancestral Winds; Duchesne, Tooele, Wasatch, Uintah/Daggett, Carbon/Emery, Weber/Morgan, and Utah County- Children’s Justice Centers; Una Mano Amiga; Centro Civico Mexicano; Circle the Wagons; Creative Healing 4 Survivors; Utah Organ Donors; Sego Lily Center for the Abused Deaf; Mexican Consulate; and Sorenson Unity Center Health Choice of Utah.

Reporting Clergy Abuse

The Utah Attorney General’s Office works tirelessly to combat clergy abuse, and child abuse of any kind, through its Child Protection Division, the statewide network of Children’s Justice Centers, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, robust investigations, prosecution and victim advocacy. We do this is partnership with Child Protective Services, local law enforcement, and other agencies.

In the interest of protecting the innocent and bringing criminals to justice, we do not discuss ongoing investigations.

If you or someone you know has been sexually abused by a clergy member, or anyone else, please report this to the 24/7 Child Abuse Hotline at 855-323-3237 or call your local sheriff or police department. You may also contact our office during business hours at 801-281-1200.

Partners in Protecting Children: Utah CJCs & the LDS Church

Seeking justice on behalf of physically or sexually abused children and helping those children heal is the mission of the Utah Children’s Justice Centers Program. Protecting children is also a core mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Due to the intersection of vision, the partnership between the two organizations is a natural fit and a big reason why the LDS Church continues to support the CJC Program.

The CJC Program received $50,000 from the LDS Church this year, making it the fourth consecutive year the Church has given to the organization. Each year, the CJCs determine where the gift can have the greatest impact. The contribution this year will go to outlying and rural sites for the following:

  • To update interview recording equipment, a critical component of the CJC process;
  • Support renovations in several centers; and 
  • Help establish a victim advocate at the San Juan facility.

For more coverage on the LDS Church grant to Utah CJCs check out the links, below.

Deseret News: LDS women leaders present donation to prevent child abuse in Utah, Bolivia

KSL.com: LDS Church donates $75K to combat child abuse in Utah and Bolivia

Fox 13: LDS Church makes donation to Children’s Justice Center to aid abuse victims

KUER: Top Female Mormon Leaders Say Child Abuse Is Major Priority

KUTV: LDS Church donates to child abuse prevention charities at home and abroad

Mormon Newsroom: Church Donates to Child Abuse Prevention Organizations

LDS Living: LDS Female Church Leaders Donate $75,000 to Fight Child Abuse

The Utah Children’s Justice Program oversees 23 independently-run CJC sites that serve 28 counties throughout the state. Sites are designed with the comfort of the child in mind to provide a safe, friendly atmosphere for forensic interviews, medical examinations, and follow-up support services. For more information please contact the CJC closest to you

25th Anniversary of the Utah Children’s Justice Program

SALT LAKE CITY May 18, 2016 – Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes released the following statement about the 25th anniversary of the Utah Children’s Justice Program:

“This week we recognize a historic milestone as the Utah Attorney General’s Office celebrates 25 years of the Children’s Justice Center model in Utah. The Children’s Justice Centers (CJCs) provide a homelike, child focused sanctuary for abused children to be interviewed and supported though-out criminal investigations. Cases are handled by a multidisciplinary team of law enforcement, child protective services, prosecutors, medical and mental health providers, and others who help children find their voice and a pathway to justice and healing.

“In 1991, through the efforts of community advocate Grethe Peterson, Weber County Attorney Reed Richards, and Utah legislators Craig Peterson, Lyle Hillyard, and John Valentine, Utah opened its first three centers.  In 1994 the CJCs were incorporated into a program under the Utah Attorney General’s Office, which has expanded services to 22 centers serving 28 counties. The founders envisioned the centers as public-private partnerships, with government and community support, and Utah’s program is now viewed as a model throughout the country. We are grateful to our distinguished founders for their vision, and we congratulate Administrator Tracey Tabet and the directors of the 22 Children’s Justice Centers across the state for 25 years of success.”


To learn more about the important work the CJCs do, please watch the following short video:

Office of the Attorney General Proud of Utah’s Children’s Justice Centers

Over the years, the Office of the Attorney General has been proud of its relationship with the Children’s Justice Centers (CJC) across the state.

Each center offers a safe place for children while they are being interviewed and meeting with investigators about allegations of abuse.  Centers also connect child abuse victims and their families with services, including forensic medical exams, mental health and victim resources. CJCs serve child victims of sexual and physical abuse, as well as children who have witnessed crimes, such as homicide. To learn more about CJC services, click here or here, or click here to find a center nearest you.

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