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Annual summit hosted by Senator Lee to focus on opioid crisis

SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – Senator Mike Lee is hosting his annual Solutions Summit in Salt Lake City on Friday.

This year, it will focus entirely on getting ahead of an epidemic that is destroying lives in Utah and across the country.

Last year, our state reversed the trend and saw fewer opioid-related deaths. It's a positive step, but there is still a tough road ahead.

Senator Lee's summit is about traveling that road together because the opioid epidemic knows no boundaries.

"It will kill anyone in its path. It's devastating effects ravage people of all backgrounds. It doesn't matter your socioeconomic status, it doesn't matter your age, your gender, your sexual orientation, your religion," said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes.

Utah Jazz Game Day Host Alema Harrington knows how pain pills can lead to a vicious cycle of addiction all too well.

"In 2002, I was down on the block and I was seeking out heroin, and drugs and I was caught in that life," Harrington said in a press conference previewing the Solutions Summit.

He broke the chains and is now helping others do the same as a counselor. It's part of a team approach with treatment providers, lawmakers, law enforcement agencies and others to turn the tide.

In 2017, our state made progress on the number of overdose deaths and slid from the 4th leading state in the country to the 7th.

It caught the attention of Acting DEA Administrator Uttam Dhillon, who is here to see what's happening from the front lines.

"Part of the reason I'm here is to see why, to understand why DEA 360 is so effective here. I think the reason is because our great state and local partners," Dhillon said.

The partnership continues Friday, as Senator Lee dedicates his summit to the opioid issue.

The morning session is for Utah students. The afternoon session will focus on arming parents and professionals with the tools and knowledge they need to help crush the crisis.

"We're better together than we are alone. The more connected we are as Utahns, the better equipped we'll be to solve this crisis," said Senator Lee's State Director Rob Axson.

And, for those who do feel alone and are suffering in silence, recovery is possible. Take it from someone who has been there.

"There are people, including myself, that know what you have been through, that have been through what you have been through," said Harrington.

Dhillon says the opioid epidemic is the DEA's top priority. He says they have the funding and resources needed to get ahead of it.

The summit gets underway Friday morning at 9:00 at Vivint Smart Home Arena.

You can register and attend for free by using the code “Together.”

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