SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Department of Health reports an average of 21 Utahns die as a result of overdosing on prescription pain killers every month.
“It is a serious problem,” said Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Salt Lake. “When you think that’s over one person a day, that’s more than all the traffic fatalities in a year. It really is a public health crisis.”
The CDC recently awarded more than $3 million to the Department of Health to put toward Utah’s painkiller problem. Moss passed two laws in the legislature last year. She’s had several relatives who have died from using opiates and says there is one key drug that can help prevent people from dying.
“If you think it’s a drug overdose, get your Naloxone ready, put it into a muscle and then you wait for the paramedics,” she said.
Doctors say Naloxone, also known as Nar Can, will reverse the effects of opiates when a person has overdosed within two to three minutes.
Dr. Jennifer Plumb from Primary Children’s Hospital is an advocate of the drug. She set up a program where people can call in and request a packet to keep in their home.
“But I personally feel that, if people have opioids in their home, especially over a certain amount, that this should be given to them,” Plumb said.
Lt. Lex Bell with the Unified Police Department said dealers and cartels are targeting Utah because of the high prevalence of opiate drug use.
“This area especially, in Salt Lake and Utah counties, is a ripe market for the opiates, so they have begun to bring more heroine into this area,” he said.
Plumb said the grant money should go toward educating the public about the life-saving drug.
“I really do think that the health department would be wise to make an investment in Naloxone and really get this distribution wider,” she said.
Anyone who wants to learn more about Naloxone or order a rescue kit of the emergency drug for their home can call 385-495-9050 or visit http://www.utahnaloxone.org.