Intermountain Health reports opioid prescriptions have decreased in Utah

Dec 12, 2023, 5:19 PM | Updated: 5:26 pm

OGDEN — Local leaders and health experts gathered in Ogden to celebrate a decrease in opioid prescriptions. Opioid use in Utah is dropping, and health experts say the efforts can be credited to not only health systems and providers but the community.

Intermountain Health says opioid prescriptions are down 36% since 2017, and now there is a new art installation to showcase this new milestone. In the past five years, health experts say opioid prescriptions fell from 7,000 to around 5,000 in Utah.

“The decrease of opioid use is a collaborative effort– from local communities, the state, patients, and of course caregivers and physicians here today by the 2022 volumes, we have decreased those prescriptions by 26 percent,” said Judy Williamson, CEO of Intermountain McKay-Dee Hospital.

To celebrate, Intermountain McKay Dee Hospital revealed a large display with pill bottles to symbolize the milestone achievement. Each bottle represents an opioid prescription — the display looking more sparse than the initial one in 2017 – a welcomed symbol of improvement.

“This display represents all of the hard work by our caregivers, our physicians, and our patients, as well as the many lives that have been saved,” Williamson said.

The pill display

The pill display. (KSL TV)

The display is more than just numbers but also represents the impact that some former opioid addicts have had on others. Bob Hunter turned his late wife Rula’s abuse into a lifetime commitment to help others.

“People think there’s a stigma attached to addiction, there isn’t, and there shouldn’t be, and the more we talk about it, the more help we will get,” Bob said. “If we never talk about it, if we hold it as a secret, help will not be there for us.”

Bob (right) with his late wife, Rula (left)

The push to reduce daily opioid prescriptions is to prevent opioid overdoses and lives being lost. People like Bob and his late wife want you to know if you are struggling, help is all around you.

“I think that’s what my wife would want me to say, and that’s what I do want to say, is that it’s important to talk about addiction. Holding it as a secret leads to no recovery at all,” Bob said.

While a big milestone was achieved, there’s still more that can be done to prevent opioid overdoses. Health experts hope this is just the beginning of many more lives being saved.

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Intermountain Health reports opioid prescriptions have decreased in Utah