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An Update from the Utah Opioid Task Force

March 20, 2019

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.

New Programs

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.

Rep. Paul Ray: Utah is an overdose capital, and fentanyl must be stopped

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 alone.

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.

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 own soil.

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 happen anywhere.

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.

A Fighting Chance at Redemption: Uintah County Sheriff, Utah Naloxone Launch New Program

February 22, 2019

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.

An Innovative Solution

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.

Increasing Saturation

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,” said Besser.

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.

Ease-of-Use

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.

Utah Naloxone

Phone: 385-495-9050

Website: www.utahnaloxone.org

Salt Lake County libraries also offer Naloxone kits without questions asked or names taken. Pharmacies and physicians often carry kits and can supply them without a prescription.

The AG’s Office invites you to tune in, obtain a Naloxone Rescue Kit, and help us give those who struggle a fighting chance to reclaim and rebuild their lives.

Life is Your Journey. Travel Drug Free.

It’s Red Ribbon Week!

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. 

The most important thing we can do? EDUCATE!

The Red Ribbon Campaign provides some great curriculum ideas for each grade and an online course for high school students on prescription drugs.

START HERE: here are two things you can do today!

  1. Talk to your kids about the dangers of drugs – particularly opioids – and the importance of staying drug-free. 
  2. Secure your medication, take inventory and properly dispose of unused or expired medication. 

FYI: Click the image below for a brief look at The Red Ribbon Campaign. 

 

D.A.R.E. unveils new curriculum addressing opioids

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.

You can watch the entire press conference here: 

Additional coverage of the event can be found at:

Fox13: D.A.R.E. fights opioid crisis with new lesson plans

KSL-TV: D.A.R.E. Program Steps Up Curriculum For Utah Students

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