255 lives saved during 2-year opiate overdose pilot program

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The Utah Department of Health reported on Thursday that 255 lives have been saved since the opiate overdose pilot program was created two years ago.

The UDOH said there continues to be a critical need to continue the project as Utah has experienced an increase of opioid overdose deaths. During 2018, 417 total opioid overdose deaths were reported in Utah.

“From 2017 to 2018, the number of ‘prescription’ opioid overdose deaths increased by 1.8% (from 217 deaths to 221 deaths). The number of heroin overdose deaths increased by 17.2% (from 122 deaths to 143 deaths). The number of deaths involving both prescription opioids and heroin increased by 76.7% (from 30 deaths to 53 deaths),” said the release.

“We still have a long way to go in solving the issues around misuse, abuse, and overdose from opioids, but we are making progress. We have great support with partners at the state and local level as well as in the healthcare and private sectors,” said Lauren Radcliffe, opioid overdose prevention specialist with the UDOH.

The two-year pilot program started in 2016 with one-time funding of $250,000. It was designed to reduce the opioid overdose death by distributing naloxone kits.

Naloxone is a safe and legal drug that can reverse heroin and prescription opioid overdoses by blocking the effects of opiates on the brain and restoring breathing within minutes. 

The pilot program ended in June 2017, and the UDOH said they have limited funding to meet the statewide demand for naloxone. 

The UDOH said they can currently purchase about 168 naloxone kits per month, which is far below the number of requests they receive for targeted naloxone distribution. 

“We hope to continue increasing statewide access to naloxone. We have initiatives involving healthcare providers, pharmacists, and school administrators,” said Radcliffe.  

In addition to distributing naloxone, the UDOH said they have implemented several initiatives to address the slight increase in prescription opioids deaths. Including:

  • Disseminating more than 257,000 opioid-related materials (e.g. brochures, pocket cards, posters, etc.).
  • Encouraging healthcare providers to talk to their patients about the risks of taking opioids and to follow the Utah Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.
  • Working with schools to implement an opioid overdose emergency report policy in 25 school districts and helping to ensure 31 school districts have naloxone available.
  • Partnering with the University of Utah Poison Control Center, a “Naloxone for Opioid Overdose 101” training was developed for the public, first responders, and public safety officers. Participants receive a certificate of completion at the end of the training.
  • Funding the Stop the Opidemic campaign since 2016, with messaging around overdose, naloxone, and healthcare provider involvement; the campaign has recently started to share messages of recovery.

“While we continue to address prescription opioids deaths, we also want to share people’s stories of recovery many of which include heroin. We understand that naloxone is what Utahns need in order to reverse an overdose and continue on to recovery,” said Radcliffe. 

To learn more about the Opiate Overdose Outreach Pilot Program, visit http://www.health.utah.gov/vipp/topics/prescription-drug-overdoses/PilotProgram.html

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