For the first time in a long time, there’s good news on Utah’s battle against the opioid epidemic

Posted at 1:07 PM, Oct 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-01 15:08:22-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- For the first time in six years, the state of Utah has seen a decrease in heroin-related overdose deaths.

Lt. Governor Spencer Cox and other state leaders made the announcement at a Monday morning news conference outlining new efforts in its fight against the opioid epidemic.

Utah was one of only nine states to see a drop in the number of opioid overdose deaths from 2016 to 2017.

There was a 14.5 percent decrease in heroin related deaths and a 16 percent decrease in prescription opioid related deaths.

Still 360 people died in opioid deaths last year, and Lt. Governor Cox said that's unacceptable.

"We need to let people know that an addiction is like the flu, it's a disease and it is preventable and you have to be able to admit it and talk about it" Cox said. "We have to take the shame out of that and give people space and give people the opportunity to come forward and admit that they have a problem and then let's get them the help that they need."

The epidemic impacts people from all walks of life, with no regard to income, race, gender or political affiliation.

“I’ve said it so many times, I said it at the White House," Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said. "It’s not a Republican issue, it’s not a Democrat issue, it’s a humanitarian issue that affects everyone.”

Of the 360 deaths last year, 237 involved opioids that had been prescribed.

The chair of the Salt Lake County Republican Party, Scott Miller, said it's scary when a loved one is involved.

“In a personal case, I have a family member that has been ramped up on opioids for chronic pain for the past 20 years," Miller said adding that cutting back on the amount of pain killer they take will be easier said than done.

“I just think we need to consider those that have been prescribed to the point over the last 20 years, take their pain and suffering into consideration and what a drastic reduction in opioid dose would do."

The Utah Department of Health has received a $3.2 million grant for collecting real-time data on opioid overdoses.

Governor Gary Herbert also signed a declaration pronouncing October 1-7 as Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week in Utah.

The state can provide a lot of help for those who may be addicted to opioids. Here's alink to those resources.