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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.

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.

NarcX Proposed Statewide Initiative

October 16, 2019

The Utah Attorney General’s Office, Senator Dan Thatcher, Representative Eric Hutchings, and Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs discussed ways state and local governments can partner to combat the opioid crisis during a press conference this morning. Additionally, they discussed implementing a statewide initiative using NarcX, an on-site disposal system for opioids.

In September, Riverton City joined with Utah Attorney General Reyes, the Opioid Task Force, and Intermountain Riverton Hospital to launch the use of NarcX in Riverton. A safe, easy-to-use liquid solution dissolves pills, tablets, capsules, liquids, and patches immediately on contact, making them non-retrievable. Riverton now houses multiple boxes of NarcX at disposal sites that are capable of safely destroying up to 5,000 unused, unwanted opioids.

Additionally, NarcX helps prohibit people from flushing opioids down the toilet, which can have harmful consequences on the environment.

Listen to the press conference below:

Read more about NarcX and the launch of the Riverton City initiative here.

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.

Media Release: AG Reyes brings Utah opioid solutions to the White House

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 28, 2018

 

UTAH ATTORNEY GENERAL BRINGS STATE OPIOID SOLUTIONS TO THE WHITE HOUSE
Policymakers from 40 states and territories gather at the nation’s capitol to discuss best practices in fighting the opioids epidemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes was featured alongside federal leaders to sound an alarm and share tools for combating the opioid epidemic. The conference was hosted by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs to foster collaboration and discuss best practices in addressing the opioid crisis in neighborhoods, communities, and states. Officials from over forty states, territories and tribes attended the conference.

Attorney General Reyes highlighted what Utah does right – specifically, mobilizing a diverse and talented network of professionals including legislators, state officials, federal partners, educators, religious groups, civic groups, and concerned citizens. “It takes everyone,” said Reyes.  “This is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. This is a humanitarian issue. Too many have died in Utah and in America. This is a clear and present danger. This epidemic kills people of every single background. Because of that we need everyone to work together.”

In addition to Attorney General Reyes, the panel included Jim Carroll, the Deputy Director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Admiral Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health at Health and Human Services, Anne Hazlett, Assistant Secretary for Rural Development at the United States Department of Agriculture, John Martin, Assistant Administrator for Diversion at the Drug Enforcement Agency, and Andrew Bremberg, Assistant to the President & Director of the Domestic Policy Council.

Scott W. Reed, Assistant Attorney General at the forefront of Utah’s opioid battle said, “One of the most important components of recovering from addiction is keeping connected to a supportive community. Likewise, today’s White House summit helps keep federal partners and federal dollars connected to the state and local folks who are in the trenches, working every day to reduce the tragic effects of the opioid crisis. We are grateful to the president and his staff for the opportunity to maintain and strengthen these connections.”

Utah Attorney General Reyes was the single state leader on the panel of federal experts chosen by the Trump Administration to discuss the comprehensive efforts taken in the fight against the opioid crisis.  Those federal efforts include the following:

1) $930 million in State Opioid Response Grants from the Office of Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to support community-driven solutions.

2) First Lady Melania Trump’s “Be Best” initiative, which has focused on the issues children affected by the crisis face, particularly neonatal concerns and the importance of educating parents on healthy pregnancies.

3) The Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) collaborative efforts with state, local, private sector, and non-profits agencies through the prevention program Drug Take Back Day.

4) The ONDCP, Ad Council, and Trump Administration’s partnership for the Youth Opioid Prevention Ad Campaign.

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NOTES:

1. The livestream of the public portion of the conference is archived here.

2. You can access more information on today’s conference on the Utah AG’s website here: https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wh-opioid-conference/

 

 

AG Reyes leads White House discussion, highlights Utah solutions at Opioids Conference

Today, Attorney General Sean D. Reyes helped lead a discussion with leaders from over forty federal, state, local, and tribal organizations, on the value of partnerships and other tools in combating the opioid crisis in America. You can read the official media release here.  Shout out to the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs staff for hosting a very informative, classy, consequential event.

Let’s save some lives.   

LIVE STREAM

Event begins at the 29-minute mark.

Here is the breakdown of comments made in the opening forum (the smaller breakout sessions afterward were not live-streamed).  One of the highlights of the discussion – in our humble opinion – was when AG Reyes highlighted the powerful Utah partnerships that make fighting the opioids crisis a winnable effort. 

Welcome and Introduction from Doug Hoelscher
Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President of the United States
Robert Wilkie, Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Panel Discussion Introduction by Katie Talento
Sean Reyes, Utah Attorney General
Jim Carroll, Deputy Director for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP)
Anne Hazlett, Assistant Secretary for Rural Development, United States Department of Agriculture
Admiral Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health, Health and Human Services
Sean Reyes, Utah Attorney General, Follow-up comments
Admiral Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary for Health, Follow-up comments

If you would like to get involved in the fight to free your family and community from the opioid epidemic, please contact our office


TWITTER SNAPSHOTS:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A FEW HELPFUL LINKS


In related news, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 6, the Support for Patients and Communities Act while we were meeting today. You can read up on the bill here. Another step in the right direction.

We can win this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Opioid Litigation RFP

The Attorney General’s Office issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) on Friday, June 22nd, seeking qualified law firms to submit proposals to represent the State of Utah in litigation concerning prescription opioids.  

You can access the RFP here: http://bids.sciquest.com/apps/Router/PublicEvent?CustomerOrg=StateOfUtah, or by following links on the Department of Purchasing’s website:  https://purchasing.utah.gov/.  

In either case, search for “BP18025.”  You can access the documents without registering with SciQuest, but you will need to register to submit a proposal.  At this point, all questions and communications must go through SciQuest (see section 1.5 of the RFP) unless otherwise stated in the RFP.  

This RFP will close on July 17, 2018.

The Office of the Attorney General appreciates your interest. You’ll remember that, in early May, we issued an RFI to gather information. Then at the end of May, we announced that the State of Utah had filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma in Carbon County, one of the counties hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. 

For a quick overview of this office’s work to end the opioid crisis, click here

Walgreens & Regence Utah Partner to Provide Drug Take Back Boxes

Today, Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes commended the partnership of Regence Utah and Walgreens at a press conference in Bountiful as they work to fight the opioid crisis across the state. Through their collaboration and combined efforts and resources, Regence Utah and Walgreens are providing Drug Take Back boxes at Walgreens pharmacy locations in Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

“Walgreens’ program has successfully answered the questions ‘Will it make a difference?’ and ‘Can it be done?’ In two years, Walgreens has been instrumental in taking back over 540,000lbs of prescriptions drugs,” said Attorney General Reyes. “Where would those drugs be if it wasn’t for these Take Back programs and kiosks?  I’ll tell you where they’d be – they would be in our medicine cabinets, at skittling parties with neighborhood high school kids, on streets getting sold, or, sadly, they would be in the medical examiner’s evidence lab marking yet another death for Utahns.”

Watch a portion of the press conference here

Regence is sponsoring 38 kiosks in our four markets, including eight in Utah. The locations in Utah are as follows:

  • Provo (1315 N State St.)
  • West Jordan (7794 S Redwood Rd.)
  • Layton (1171 W. 200 N Antelope Dr.)
  • Draper (1311 E Draper Pkwy.)
  • Bountiful (515 S 500 W)
  • Salt Lake City (531 E 400 S, and 909 E 2100 S)
  • Taylorsville (4040 W 5415 S).

Due to the joint efforts with AmeisourceBergen, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, Pfizer, Prime Therapeutics, and Walgreens, an additional 900 disposal kiosks will be added at Walgreens across the country for a total footprint of about 1,500 stores, up from 600 locations today.

Regence’s Behavioral Health Medical Director Dr. Jim Polo said Regence was proud to partner with Walgreens in providing options for safe disposal. He went on, “This will take effort by everyone involved: hospitals, pharmacies, legislators, the community. It will take all of us to see a change.”

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox, State Senator Todd Weiler, and State Representative Raymond Ward also expressed their support of the initiative, as well as officials from the City of Bountiful, the Salt Lake Metro Narcotics Task Force/DEA, Regence Utah, and Walgreens.

 

Utah Attorney General

AG Sean Reyes Joins Bipartisan Letter Urging PBMs to Implement Opioid Mitigation Programs

SALT LAKE CITY October 20, 2017 – Attorney General Sean Reyes has joined with a bipartisan group of attorneys general from across the country in letters to 15 healthcare companies that provide pharmacy benefit management (PBM) services encouraging the companies to implement programs to mitigate prescription opioid abuse.

The attorneys general also sent a letter to the president and CEO of CVS Health Corporation applauding the company’s recent program that automatically enrolled all commercial, health plan, employer and Medicaid clients in an opioid abuse mitigation program.

“As Attorney General, I have seen far too much devastation to Utah families and communities from opioids. In our fight against this epidemic we have learned that all too often addiction starts with prescription medication,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. 

“I applaud pharmacies like CVS who are proactively implementing policies to lessen the likelihood of addiction by patients. We urge other companies to follow their lead. Limiting the duration and dosage of opioids, among other solutions, will likely decrease significantly the number of new addicts.

“Working with pharmacies is part of the Utah Opioid Task Force’s multi-layered approach with many stakeholders including manufacturers, prescribers, insurance companies, law enforcement & the recovery community to comprehensively address the opioid threat ravaging our nation.”

In their letters to the PBMs, the attorneys general asked that the companies adopt similar measures as CVS, including limiting to seven days the supply of opioids dispensed for certain acute prescriptions for patients who are new to the therapy, limiting the daily dosage of opioids dispensed based on the strength of the opioid, and requiring the use of immediate-release formulations of opioids before extended-release opioids are dispensed. The CVS program’s requirements are similar to the opioid prescribing guidelines recently issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

The multistate PBM letters were sent to:

  • Argus Health Systems, Inc.
  • Benecard Servies LLC
  • Envision Pharmaceutical Services LLC
  • Envolve Health
  • Express Scripts, Inc.
  • Humana, Inc.
  • Magellan Rx Management
  • MedImpact Healthcare Systems, Inc.
  • Navitus Health Solutions LLC
  • OptumRX , Inc.
  • PerformRx
  • Prime Therapeutics, Inc.
  • ProCare Rx
  • RxAdvance
  • WellDyneRx

“While there are no doubt additional measures that pharmacy benefit managers could take to combat prescription opioid abuse, we believe over-prescribing of opioids could be curtailed by the implementation of a CVS-type program,” the attorneys general wrote.

“The opioid epidemic is the most pressing public health crisis our country faces,” the attorneys general wrote. “It affects every state and has a devastating impact on communities – tearing apart families and stretching the budgets of local law enforcement and first responders as they do the difficult work on the front lines. For our part, attorneys general are pooling resources and coordinating across party lines to address the crisis.”

Opioids, both prescription and illicit, are now the main driver of drug overdose deaths nationwide. According to CDC, opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths in 2015, and opioid overdoses have quadrupled since 1999. The Utah Department of Health reports in Utah 23 individuals die from prescription drug overdoses every month, and from 2013-2015, Utah ranked 7th in the U.S. for drug poisoning deaths. From 2000 to 2015 Utah saw a nearly 400% increase in deaths from the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs.

In addition to AG Sean Reyes, those joining one or both of today’s letters include attorneys general from Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Please click here to view these letters.
https://attorneygeneral.utah.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Letters-to-CVS-and-PMBs.pdf

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EDITORS NOTES:

1. Find drug overdose death data on the CDC site: https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/data/statedeaths.html

2. For Utah specific data on prescription drug overdoses visit: http://health.utah.gov/vipp/topics/prescription-drug-overdoses/

 

Utah Taking Back Unwanted Prescription Drugs on April 29

 

At No Cost to Utah, AG Office Provides Breakthrough Technology to Reclaim Prescription Drug Pills in an Environmentally Friendly Manner

 

SALT LAKE CITY April 28, 2017 – The Utah Attorney General’s Office (AGO) encourages Utahns to participate in the Utah Take Back on Saturday, April 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at locations statewide. Utahns can prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs. Find a take-back site at www.utahtakeback.org. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked. Additionally, eco-friendly reclamation bags donated at no cost to the state will be available for distribution from take-back locations.

“Prescription drug abuse, particularly for painkillers, has risen to epidemic levels nationwide, and Utah is no exception,” said Attorney General Sean Reyes. “Prescription drugs, when administered and taken responsibly, can be a productive tool for pain management. But far too often, what begins innocently can lead to dependence and devastation.

“In addition to overprescription, unauthorized access to even properly prescribed painkillers is one of the biggest drivers toward addiction. Many users of street drugs like heroin start by abusing their own painkillers, then move to finding other people’s prescription drugs. Addicts may be soccer moms or executives. They can be our kids, grandkids, kids from the block, good students or bad students included.

“No community is immune. Addiction touches rural and urban areas, uptown or downtown neighborhoods alike. And whether we realize it or not, our medicine cabinets may be where they are looking next or where they may have already been.  By teaming up on Take Back Day with partners like the DEA, AARP, and businesses and citizens across our state, we will recover hundreds, if not thousands of pounds of prescription drugs.”

Improper disposal of unused and expired medications leads to damage of our environment. In the fight against opioid addiction, the AGO is grateful for eco-friendly reclamation bags donated at no cost to the state by private companies like Doterra and Mallinckrodt to thousands of Utah Take Back locations around the state. The bags can be filled with any pills, which they will dissolve and neutralize.  Measurable amounts of antibiotics, antidepressants, and medications have all been found in U.S. lakes and rivers. The eco-friendly, medication disposal system produced and donated for the Utah Take Back is highly effective in absorbing and firmly binding pharmaceuticals, rendering chemical compounds safe for landfills and reducing watershed contamination.

Utahns can prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs. Drop off unused, unneeded, and expired drugs is tomorrow, Saturday, April 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at locations statewide, in addition to year-round locations. The service is free and anonymous, no questions asked. For more information about the April 29th Take-Bake and to find a collection site near you, visit www.utahtakeback.org.

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