Utah hosts luminary events for international overdose awareness day

Aug 31, 2023, 8:29 PM | Updated: 10:39 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – As Utahns gathered at “A Light to Remember” luminary events across the state on Thursday to remember loved ones who died by substance abuse overdose, new funding was awarded to the state to help reduce those deaths.

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded $279 million to 49 states, the District of Columbia, and 40 local health departments to help stop overdose deaths. Utah was awarded $2.7 million of that, according to the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.

Statement from UDHHS:

The Utah Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Violence and Injury Prevention Program (VIPP) has received $2.7 million in grant money from the CDC to improve awareness of and increase prevention efforts towards drug overdoses in the state. DHHS will use the funding to:

· Improve data collection on fatal and non-fatal drug overdoses, including toxicology lab testing to create informed decisions.

· Use data to detect overdose outbreaks and spikes across the state.

· Provide training and education to healthcare providers on safe prescribing, and to provide help and support to people who use drugs.

· Review overdose fatalities and develop recommendations to prevent and respond to overdoses.

· Provide training and education on reducing stigma of substance use and increasing help seeking.

· Provide education on the overdose crisis in Utah along with training on the administration of naloxone and use of fentanyl test strips.

· Connect people who use drugs to harm reduction and treatment such as naloxone, fentanyl test strips, syringe services programs, and treatment centers.

· Expand data sharing with law enforcement and first responders.

The new funding was announced on International Overdose Awareness Day, a day dedicated to remembering those who have died because of an overdose, and a day dedicated to showing support for those grieving a loved one. Utah Gov. Spencer J. Cox issued an order for all U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff on all state facilities in recognition of the day. He also extended an invitation to all private citizens, businesses, and organizations to participate as well.

Thursday night, luminary events are being held around the state to remember those impacted by the opioid crisis.

“There is still hope, that’s what today is about,” said Michelle Church, Executive Director of A Light to Remember. “All the people who are in recovery, seeing their community and the support that is behind them, and trying to make it so we don’t encounter this as much in the future.”

In partnership with Utah State University Extension and other community organizations, A Light to Remember luminary events are happening in ten counties in Utah Thursday. Each event will host a memory wall for guests to share and name and photo of a loved one who passed as the

result of an overdose, or who is healing from the loss of a loved one. There will also be free naloxone kids and training available, as well as information on addiction and recovery resources available in the Utah. Each event will also have a table to create a lighted luminary that will be launched prior to a moment of silence.

“We really need to get the word out about naloxone and also about testing strips and just about awareness about this epidemic and not running in shame from it but addressing a crisis,” said Church.

Opioid overdose deaths are on the rise in Utah. According to the Utah Public Opioid Dashboard, in 2019 360 Utahns died of an opioid overdose, last year 420 Utahns died.

“The opioid epidemic is not going away,” said Church. “But breaking the stigma really starts with talking about harm reduction which is unwavering love for people who are in recovery, that doesn’t mean you get abused and used by it, it’s recognizing it’s a terminal illness that exist for people, a chronic illness, and requires constant support. And the way we can get through this is by supporting those who have been affected by this crisis and not pretending it doesn’t exist.”

For more information about A Light to Remember visit locations here.

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Utah hosts luminary events for international overdose awareness day