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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
Yesterday, the Utah Opioid Task Force held a meeting to discuss the opioid crisis in Utah and share resources to aid in the battle against addiction and overdose.
The Effect of Opioids
on Consumers & Children
Mark Jansen from the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business presented to the Utah Opioid Task Force on the indirect effects opioid abuse has on consumer behavior and finances. Some of the principal unseen effects of the opioid crisis are higher default rates and a raised cost of credit for consumers.
Children are also highly impacted by opioids, addictions, and overdoses. Carrie Jensen from the CJC program and Allison Smith on behalf of Utah Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, presented on the high-risk children are at when their parents are suffering from an addiction to opioids. Every 15 minutes in the U.S., a child is born addicted to opioids. Additionally, not only do children do what they see, but drug-endangered children will struggle throughout their lives with emotional, cognitive, and behavioral problems.
Naloxone Saves Lives
According to the latest statistics from the DEA, there were 4,714 opioid overdoses in 2018. Dr. Jennifer Plumb with Utah Naloxone stated that more people are surviving these overdoses due to Naloxone, prepared emergency rooms, and Utah Department of Health campaigns. Last month, the Task Force joined with the Uintah County Sheriff’s Office to launch an experimental program to supply Naloxone rescue kits to inmates upon release, and their close support network in an effort to increase needed supplies to those most at risk of an overdose.
Midvale City Police Chief Randy Thomas and Utah CJC Director Tracey Tabet discussed a pilot program for screening processes that identifies children susceptible to addiction and helps them find help early on.
Attorney General Sean D. Reyes discussed emerging technology
that might be used to fight the opioid crisis.
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.
Written by Utah Representative Paul Ray and originally posted in the Salt Lake Tribune.
March 13, 2019
It may come as somewhat of a
shock for most Utahns to learn that our state has one of the worst rates of
opioid drug overdoses in our country. In fact, our state has been consistently
ranked among the top 10 for opioid-related overdoses for the past decade. According
to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
more than 600 people died from opioid-related overdoses in Utah during 2016
The data for 2016 showed a
slight improvement over 2015 due to federal, state and local efforts via the Utah Opioid Task Force, as a result of its
cracking down on the over-prescription and sale of legal pain-relieving
medications that contain opioids. However, the rate of mortality has remained
stubbornly high due to the spread of an illegally manufactured drug called
Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid most people had never even heard
of five years ago. It is such a potent drug that even
a few milligrams of it — equivalent to a grain of rice — can be deadly for
anyone who comes into contact with it — even accidentally.
China is the main source of
manufacturing the illegal fentanyl finding its way across our borders. Most of
the drugs are shipped to Mexican drug cartels that
have perfected the process of pressing fentanyl into counterfeit pills and
smuggling them into the U.S. for distribution. Sometimes the fentanyl is just
shipped in bulk over our borders and is turned into pills in factories on our
By now, many of us have heard
the unfortunate story of Aaron Shamo, an otherwise
promising young man, an Eagle Scout from a solid family. Shamo became a drug
kingpin in a comfortable Salt Lake City suburb, manufacturing more than 500,000
counterfeit pills made from fentanyl to sell on the dark web.
If it can happen here, it can
Just before the recent elections,
President Donald Trump signed into law the STOP Act, the first
sweeping legislation addressing some of the problems that have given rise to
this epidemic. The need for this legislation was so great, less than 10 out of
535 Members of the House of Representatives and Senate voted against it.
While this is an excellent
first step, Congress needs to take further, more robust action. We desperately
need more security at our borders and, like our Attorney General Sean Reyes, I
urge Congress to now pass the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl
Analogues (SOFA) Act, which would give prosecutors additional powers
to go after the ringleaders of the production and manufacturing cartels
responsible for selling these deadly drugs in our state.
Make no mistake, we cannot ease
up on the pressure required to defeat the spread of this deadly drug that has
invaded Utah. State leaders like myself must continue to push for legislation
that will secure our communities until the death toll recedes to zero.
Paul Ray represents District 13
in the Utah House of Representatives.
In a first for the State of Utah, the Uintah County Sheriff’s Office partnered with Utah Naloxone and the Utah Opioid Task Force to launch an experimental program to supply Naloxone rescue kits to inmates upon release, and to their close support network.
Listen in here.
As you might guess, this population is highly at-risk of an overdose. The goal is to make tools available to save more lives and give people a fighting chance at redemption.
This new access program is a result of the combined efforts of people in medicine, public health, law enforcement, criminal justice, and the hundreds of thousands of family members who have either lost someone or are at risk of losing someone to an overdose.
Studies have shown that within the first two weeks of an inmate’s release from incarceration, inmates are 40 times more likely to die of an overdose. The Uintah County Sheriff’s Office, the Utah Opioid Task Force, and Utah Naloxone recognized the importance of supplying this vulnerable population and worked out an innovative solution. If this proves successful, other law enforcement agencies may follow suit.
“This will save lives. I guarantee you. This will save lives that we would have reached no other way,” said Dr. Jennifer Plumb with Utah Naloxone.
While Naloxone kits are already accessible to the public, most people are either unaware or feel uncomfortable purchasing a kit. As of November 1st, 2018, Utah’s Naloxone access program has saved 2608 lives.
Dr. Plumb stressed the importance of educating and equipping the support network of those at-risk of overdose. In some instances, it may take police officers and first responders too long to arrive on the scene in order to administer Naloxone or perform life-saving measures. Educating and supplying family members and friends with Naloxone rescue kits saves lives by allowing a friend or family member to administer the medication, beginning the reversal process quickly, and allowing more time for first responders to arrive.
Lives are irreplaceable. In 2017, 73,000 Americans lost their lives to drug overdoses.
To their credit, the Uintah County Sheriff’s Office understands the importance of finding strategies that work. “We need to get as many kits as we can into as many hands as we can. Just because you’re currently dealing with addiction, doesn’t mean you’re not worth saving,” said Uintah County Sheriff Steve Labrum.
The need to educate and supply people with Naloxone rescue
kits is not reserved to inmates and those close to them. Brian Besser of the
Utah DEA urged the importance of saturation and educating everyone.
“We have to make our churches, our schools, our government
entities, our faith-based institutions, parents, every person walking on the sidewalk
needs to be aware of the efficacy of not only this program but the drug itself,”
One in six kits are used to save a life. If 500 kits were dispersed,
approximately 100 lives could be saved.
“Prevention works, treatment is effective, and people
recover every day, but you can only recover if you’re alive. Too many people
are overdosing. Naloxone simply saves lives,” said Brent Kelsey with the DSAMH.
The Naloxone rescue kits are easy-to-use and cost-effective, coming to approximately $15 a vial and $30 for a whole kit. The kits are injectable, featuring large needles designed to inject into a muscle, similar to a flu shot. Although kits on the market feature other methods of inoculation, such as intranasal, the injectable kits are much more cost effective.
Kit Locations & Contact
If you need a Naloxone rescue kit, please contact Utah Naloxone.
Launched in the early 1980s, with the help of the wonderful Nancy Reagan, the Red Ribbon Campaign is the oldest and largest drug prevention program in the nation. This year’s theme is “Life is Your Journey. Travel Drug Free.” and the hope is to mobilize teachers, parents, and communities to help create a drug-free future.
At a press conference today, D.A.R.E. America announced its entrance into the fight against opioids by unveiling a new curriculum focused specifically on the dangers of opioids and prescription drugs. Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes and DEA District Agent in Charge Brian Besser were on hand to support the new move for the decades-old program.
Over 2.5 million Utah students have been trained in drug awareness and preventions since D.A.R.E. launched almost three decades ago. However, as the challenges of youth have changed, the D.A.R.E. education programs have had to evolve to meet those ever-increasing needs.
The recent rise of opioid addiction and overdose deaths have compelled D.A.R.E. America to create lesson plans that help students navigate a new reality throughout the states.
These lesson plans go beyond the traditional “Just Say No” slogan to strategies that provide students with the skills and knowledge needed to help their peers who may be struggling as well as make good and healthy decisions in every area of life.