Lt. Governor Announces New Initiatives to Combat Opioid Addiction

Oct 1, 2018, 8:23 PM | Updated: 9:37 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Speaking alongside several other state leaders, in health, human services, and law enforcement, Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox announced Monday that Utah is one of only nine states to report a drop in heroin and opioid-related deaths between 2016 and 2017.

At the same time, he reiterated his feelings that it’s not enough.

“Every single death of despair is preventable,” Cox said, speaking of overdoses and suicide. “There’s no question that these two areas are very, very closely related.”

Cox said that people in Utah need to treat addiction and mental illness for what they are.

MORE: The Danger of Opioid Addiction & How To Prevent It

“When something inside of us is broken, we feel like we can’t share that,” Cox said. “We have to change that. We have to change the culture around it. We have to be able to talk about these things. Only then will people be able to come out of the darkness and get the help that they need.”

While Cox said the State of Utah has made progress in fighting an opioid epidemic, he also announced new initiatives that the Utah Coalition for Opioid Overdose Prevention will take. Those efforts include:

  • A $3.2 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention that will establish real-time monitoring and reporting of overdose events.
  • An overhauled Controlled Substance Database, that will allow doctors to see potential red-flag issues that may exist within a patient, before they issue a prescription.
  • Grants from The Utah Department of Human Services that will allow local communities to implement evidence-based prevention activities, and help supply and train first responders with Nalaxone.
  • A Drug Monitoring Initiative that will alert law enforcement to emerging drug threats within the state of Utah.

A recovering addict at the meeting, Will Ferguson said the efforts are appreciated, but that he’d like to see more schools welcome speakers like himself, who can share personal experiences.

“I struggled with pain pill addiction for 20 something years,” Ferguson said. “I don’t just talk about addiction. I talk about consequence.”

Ferguson said in a previous interview with KSL, that he at one time took more than a hundred pills a day. He hopes real-life stories like his can help motivate youth to stay away from drugs.

“I’m not cured. I have to deal with this every day of my whole life,” Ferguson said. “I think that a lot of people are stuck on this evidence-based, that they’re not looking at the whole picture.”

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Lt. Governor Announces New Initiatives to Combat Opioid Addiction