Utah ranks as the fourth state in the nation for deaths related to drug overdose according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Erik Christensen, chief medical examiner for the Utah Department of Health states that it goes from tolerance to dependence to addiction to overdose and death for many people in Utah and it is time to stop the epidemic.
On Wednesday, the health department kicked off a new public awareness campaign, “Stop The Opidemic.” The new campaign aims to bring an end to the devastation that opioid abuse and addiction has on persons, their families and the communities throughout the state. The campaign aims to educate the people on the dangers of opioids, even when the painkillers are prescribed.
Education on the signs and symptoms of overdose and the importance of having an antidote medication ready whenever drugs are being used or suspected to be present at home is also taught by the campaign. This year, lawmakers are seeking multiple changes on how opiates are being prescribed to encourage insurance companies to set various policies on opioid drug coverage, relieving liability on people who administer naloxone in an overdose event and adding new controlled substance to statewide database for better enforcement on their use.
In a House Health and Human Services Committee meeting, Rep. Ray Ward, R-Bountiful stated that this is not a problem that can be solved by one group making a change. Ward had proposed HB90 which would invite insurance companies to be part of the solution to the epidemic. Ward believes that it will require some steps from the Legislature, the community, physicians and insurance companies to make a difference as reported in an article by Deseret News Utah.
Utah is one of the states that had been hit the hardest by the opioid epidemic. According to the Department of Health a total of 268 Utahns died from prescription opioid overdose between 2013 and 2015 and 127 people died from illicit opioids such as heroin as reported by Fox13.