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AG Reyes Statement on Aaron Shamo Conviction

August 29, 2019

Following the announcement of the conviction of Aaron Shamo, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes released the following statement:

“We may never know the full extent of the lives lost or the families harmed by Aaron Shamo’s deadly enterprise as a global drug dealer.

“Shamo callously profited from trafficking dangerous doses of Fentanyl to vulnerable people caught in the clutches of addiction.

“This case highlights the devastating effects of trafficking illicit Fentanyl, an often overlooked but deadly aspect of the opioid crisis. 

“Shamo’s conviction today is a significant victory in the ongoing war on illegal opioids in our state and nation. Utahans owe a debt of gratitude to all involved in taking down this predator.

“We thank DEA Supervisory Agent Brian Besser and his fellow agents who put their lives in danger to investigate this case and eliminate a clear and present danger.

“We also commend US Attorney John Huber, Special AUSA Michael Gadd and the joint prosecution team of the US Attorney, Kent Burggraaf from the Utah Attorney General’s Office, the FDA, Homeland Security, IRS-Criminal Investigation and Postal Inspectors.

“To further protect our families from the Aaron Shamos of the world, we need to have real and honest dialogues about addiction as a public health crisis.

“In those discussions, we must eliminate shame and judgment. This will allow more prevention in some cases and in others, more treatment and recovery resources to those trapped in the deadly cycle of addiction.”

AG Reyes Joins 39 State Coalition Letter Urging Congress to Remove Federal Barriers to Treat Opioid Use Disorder

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2019

AG Reyes Joins 39 State Coalition Letter to Congressional Leadership Urging Congress to Remove Federal Barriers to Treat Opioid Use Disorder

SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes sent a letter to Congressional leadership in both the House and Senate, asking for the removal of federal barriers that are currently preventing health care providers from offering treatment for opioid use disorder. 

Opioid use disorder is the physical and psychological reliance on opioids. Symptoms of opioid addiction include uncontrollable cravings for the drugs and the inability to control opioid use despite its negative impacts.

Attorney General Sean D. Reyes said it’s estimated that 2 million Americans struggle with opioid use disorder.

“States are on the front lines and are combining all of the resources at our disposal to stop the current crisis,” Attorney General Reyes said. “Although we have been successful in many ways, there is more that can be done by the federal government. By eliminating the barriers outlined in our letter, Congress can take meaningful, productive steps that will benefit those currently struggling with addiction before it’s too late.

“I appreciate my attorneys general colleagues who acknowledge that addiction is a brain disease, not a moral failing, and the more help we can provide for those struggling the better,” Attorney General Reyes added.

The letter outlines three areas that need to be addressed:

  • Replace the cumbersome, out-of-date, privacy rules contained in 42 CFR Part 2 with the effective and more familiar privacy rules contained in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA);
  • Pass HR 2482, the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act, which would eliminate unnecessary burdens on buprenorphine prescribing imposed by the Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 2000. Buprenorphine is one of three drugs used as part of Medication Assisted Treatment, the most effective treatment for opioid use disorder. Outdated and unnecessary federal requirements are discouraging doctors from prescribing this life-saving drug to patients who need it; and 
  • Fully repeal the Medicaid Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMD) exclusion. The IMD exclusion generally prohibits state Medicaid programs from receiving federal reimbursement for adults between 21 and 65 receiving mental health or substance use disorder treatment in a residential treatment facility with more than 16 beds.

“The opioid epidemic is tearing families apart all over our state and nation,” Attorney General Reyes said. “Opioid addiction, like all chronic illnesses, requires treatment for people to get healthy. We must remove all unnecessary barriers between people with opioid use disorder and the treatment they need. I urge Congress to take these needed steps.”

Utah is joined on the letter by attorneys general from Oklahoma, North Carolina, (the leaders of the letter); California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakoda, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Read the letter here.

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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.

Utah opioid overdose deaths are down, thanks to Utah Naloxone

Part of the Utah Opioid Task Force, co-chaired by Attorney General Sean D. Reyes along with U.S. Senator Mike Lee and DEA District Agent-in-Charge Brian Besser, Utah Naloxone is a game-changer in the fight against opioids in the State of Utah. The Utah Attorney General’s office is proud of the work Utah Naloxone co-founder, Dr. Jennifer Plumb, has accomplished and is privileged to partner with her and her organization as we address the opioid epidemic in our great state.

For Immediate Release

UTAH NALOXONE REACHES MAJOR MILESTONE

SALT LAKE CITY – More than 3,000 people in Utah have a second chance at life thanks to the efforts of Utah Naloxone. All of these individuals were given the medication naloxone (Narcan) during an opioid overdose by a non-medical layperson around them. Naloxone reverses an opioid overdose if given in time, causing the effects of the opioid to reverse and bringing them back. Opioids include pain pills, heroin, and fentanyl.

All of these life-saving doses were administered by non-medical members of our community who obtained rescue kits from Utah Naloxone or one of its Overdose Outreach Provider partners just for this purpose. The recent reports bringing us to this milestone came from our partners at One Voice
Recovery (OVR) who work across the state of Utah to educate on substance use disorder, work to decrease stigma, as well as to reduce infectious disease transmission and overdose deaths. These direct community partners are a major contributor to saving lives across Utah.

The number of lives saved by naloxone has been attributed as a large part of why Utah is seeing a decline in the number of opioid deaths. We were one of only seven states in 2017 where the death rate is going down. And as the number of people who are surviving an opioid overdose and making it to an emergency room for care is rising – almost doubling from 2015 to 2017 (1.5/10,000 in 2015 to 2.8/10,000 in 2017). People are saving lives and giving people a chance to survive to make it to an ER which alters outcomes for our state.

There is still work to be done. Overdose is still the leading cause of injury death in the state, and Utah still is among states with a high rate of overdose deaths. If you or someone you know is taking opioids you should have Naloxone on hand in case of an overdose. Naloxone kits are available through Utah Naloxone. It is legal to possess the drug, and legal to administer it if you suspect someone is overdosing on opioids. For more information go to UtahNaloxone.org.

CONTACTS:
Jennifer Plumb, MD, MPH
Medical Director, Utah Naloxone
801-232-5410 801-696-1139
UtahNaloxone@gmail.com

Patrick Rezac
Executive Director, One Voice Recovery
801-696-1139
OneVoiceRecovery@gmail.com


Yesterday, Utah Attorney General’s office Special Agents and staff were trained on how to administer Naloxone in the field by Dr. Jennifer Plumb. Check out the photos below:

Opioids & Rural America

November 1, 2018

While Utah has experienced a drop in opioid-related overdose deaths, the rate of overdose deaths across America continues to rise. 

What may be surprising is where in America those rates occur. Long perceived as an urban issue, rural communities are now experiencing overdose deaths at a higher rate than their urban neighbors.*

Civil Eats, a daily news source for critical thought about the American food systems, addresses the farm communities that are especially hard hit by the opioid addiction. In their recent article, Reckoning with Opioids in Farm Country, Randy Parker, Utah State Director for USDA Rural Development is featured for his work on tackling the opioid issue in rural Utah. Attorney General Sean Reyes is also highlighted for his work in the creation of a rural opioid task force, which Parker chairs, to focus efforts on providing prevention, treatment, and recovery for those who live in rural areas. 

Here’s a look at a couple opioid roundtables in rural Utah.

You can learn more about opioid misuse in Rural America here and see how the USDA is responding in the following video (courtesy of USDA.gov)

 

*CDC Reports Rising Rates of Drug Overdose Deaths in Rural Areas

Photo by Timothy Eberly

Solutions Summit a Success

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 12, 2018

 

UTAH OPIOID SOLUTIONS SUMMIT A SUCCESS
 
SALT LAKE CITY – Today, the co-chairs of the Utah Opioid Task Force hosted the 5th Annual Solutions Summit: Instead – Connecting for a Cure. Over 5,000 students, educators, healthcare officials, and community members were in attendance at the event presented by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, DEA 360 Program Director Brian Besser, and others.
 
The summit, which was held in two parts, focused on combatting the opioid epidemic in the state of Utah.
 
The morning session was created with the intent to educate high schoolers on the dangers of opioid use and give them real-time resources to stop addiction before it starts. Students enjoyed musical numbers, educational videos, and stories from families who had lost loved ones to the crisis.
 
The general session, which was held in the afternoon, focused on enabling communication and support across the various communities involved in combating the crisis.
 
While the co-chairs were pleased with the success of the summit, they stressed the importance of continuing this effort beyond today’s events. “The way we keep the momentum going is by connecting to the communities,” DEA District Agent in Charge for the State of Utah Brian Besser said. “We are wearing our tires out traveling around the state. We spend most of our time finding those who are hardest hit, listening, and learning how we can help.” 

The Utah Solutions Summit was made possible by the following partnerships: US Senator Mike Lee, Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes, Utah Opioid Task Force, DEA 360 Strategy, Sutherland Institute, Utah Anti-Bullying Coalition, The 525 Foundation, Salt Lake Chamber, and the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation

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 NOTES:

  1. Find more information about the Summit and program here: utahsolutionssummit.com. 

 

UPDATED 10/14/18

Missed the Summit? You can still participate by watching the Livestream here: 

Fox 13 Live did a great piece on the Summit, which you can view here: 

Find additional coverage of the Utah Solutions Summit below: 

Fox13: Utah teens converge on Vivint Smart Home Arena to join the fight against Opioids

Good4Utah.com: Utah’s apparent solution to opioid crisis going national

Deseret News Utah:  At the Utah Solutions Summit, the message to Utah youths was clear: Don’t die for a high

KUTV: Utah Solutions Summit – Addressing Opioid Addiction in Utah

KSL-TV: Utah Solutions Summit Educates Students On Opioid Epidemic

 

 

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


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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New stats: Overdose deaths down 12% in Utah

The reality of the opioid and drug epidemic in Utah can seem daunting and bleak, but change is happening. Recently, Utah recorded a 12% decrease in overdose deaths from the past year, which is the nation’s second-largest drop. Targeted action by leaders across the state of Utah to raise awareness, educate, and improve access to resources and treatment is proving effective. 

“When we work together, we work best,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said earlier this year. “There is hope. As devastating as this issue is, working together we can overcome and eradicate this threat from our communities.” 

Slowly, but surely.

Deseret News wrote about the findings, the cautious optimism of leaders, and state initiatives moving forward. Read the entire article here: Utah’s overdose deaths fall 12% despite nationwide surge

You can keep this trend going by learning more about opioids, treatment, and how to take action at Stop the Opidemic

 

Photo by Thought Catalog

AG Reyes Updates White House Staff on Opioid Epidemic

President Trump declares opioid epidemic a national public health emergency

SALT LAKE CITY  October 26, 2017 – The Office of the Utah Attorney General (OAG) announced today that Attorney General Sean Reyes met with White House officials and cabinet members to discuss efforts to combat the opioid epidemic killing Americans. President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national public health emergency, while a White House spokesman suggested that Congress allocate $45 billion for the fight against opioids. The number of drug overdoses in 2016 is expected to exceed 64,000 Americans, according to the White House. Utah has the 7th highest drug overdose rate in the nation.

“Over the last decade we have seen have seen the types of drugs sold on our streets become more potent and deadly,” said Attorney General Reyes.  “Today, what begins as a legitimate prescription for pain all too often becomes an addiction, leading users to steal additional opioids from the medicine cabinets of family. Worse, it can lead addicts to fill their craving with illicit black tar heroin or overdose and death. This epidemic—striking at our homes, our families, and our communities—is why we are taking aggressive action against drug traffickers.”

The White House’s declaration of the opioid epidemic as a public health emergency allows the government to redirect resources in various ways and to expand access to medical services in rural areas.

“This is a banner day,” Reyes said in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune after leaving the White House. “No matter whether you’re new to this issue or you’ve been like many of us fighting it for a long time, there’s nothing but good news in terms of it making people more aware, asking for more help and giving a broad mandate to federal agencies to make this a priority to open up resources to help us all in our individual states and communities.

“Having now an administrative mandate of presidential priority to push even further a number of initiatives, research, budgeting for this issue — it’s certainly not too late and if we don’t start to take it even more seriously and have more urgency, it’s only going to metastasize.”

Working with legislators, community activists, and medical community, as well as the Drug Enforcement Agency, AG Reyes organized the Utah Opioid Task Force earlier this year to combat the opioid epidemic. The Utah Opioid Task Force is a voluntary task force made up of representatives from partner agencies and organizations across the state. The mission of the Task Force is to take action against opioid abuse through law enforcement, prosecution, proposed legislation, and innovation.

The collaborative process brings together leaders who are alarmed and seeking solutions. Most recently the task force has taken action to fight the opioid epidemic in several ways.

  • Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes co-authored a letter representing a coalition of 37 states and territories urging health insurance companies to examine financial incentives that contribute to the opioid epidemic in Utah.
  • Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes announced that an investigation by a bipartisan coalition of 41 state attorneys general is seeking documents and information from manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids. This information will enable the attorneys general to evaluate whether these businesses are engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing, sale, and distribution of opioids. 
  • 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 Task Force called on to make available naloxone rescue kits, which are used solely as an antidote to reverse an opiate overdose.  Additionally, legislators and medical community members of the task force are collaborating to forward legislation to address various aspects of the opioid epidemic.

Quick facts on the national and local opioid epidemic:

  • 6 Utahns die every week from opioid overdose, or 23 individuals a month
  • 80% of users of hard heroin start with prescription opioids.
  • Drug poisoning deaths have outpaced deaths due to firearms, falls, and motor vehicle crashes in Utah.

According to the White House, “There are several principal factors contributing to the current nationwide heroin crisis: the increased availability of heroin in the U.S. market, including the availability of purer forms of heroin that allow for non-intravenous use; its relatively low price; and some people who use controlled opioid prescription drugs for non-medical purposes transitioning to heroin use.  Heroin use has spread into suburban and rural communities and is growing among most socioeconomic classes, age groups, and races.  Furthermore, the emergence of clandestinely produced fentanyl and other high potency synthetic opioids in the illicit drug market is fueling the high mortality rate and compounding our country’s current opioid crisis.”

 

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