SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) – Hundreds of people gathered at the Utah Capitol to remember those lost to opioid overdose, and to organize efforts to stop it. While deaths in Utah have dropped 12 percent in the last year organizers and lawmakers said there is still a lot of work to be done.
Amber Baum is the Founder of Overdose Awareness Utah which hosted the event. She lost her daughter to opioid overdose four years ago.
Baum said for years there had been a huge amount of shame, and she didn’t tell anyone her daughter was an addict. She said one of the keys to solving the problem is being open about people’s struggle with addiction.
“We’re not going to be quite anymore,” said Baum. “It’s not a parenting error, we’re all doing our very best and we want to help each other and support each other, this can change.”
In the few short years she’s been an advocate there have been serious changes across the state.
“It’s amazing to see the change and the shift in beliefs,” said Baum. “As a mom who lost somebody, I don’t want another mom to lose their kid.”
Those changes have come at several levels. Access to naloxone has played a key role with more than 2,000 people being saved from overdose in Utah.
Other reforms include laws at the state level which protect Good Samaritans, and more funding for treatment. Speaker of the House Greg Hughes (R-Draper) said his mind changed forever just before Operation Rio Grande when he learned 80 percent of heroin users near they shelter started on prescription pain killers.
“When I found out that you could follow the instructions on the bottle strictly and still find yourself physically addicted,” said Speaker Hughes. “I think that’s when the weight of this started to strike me.”
The Speaker said he’s glad to see everyone’s effort starting to show results, but he said there is still al long ways to go.
“The good news is we’ve met friends and allies,” said Speaker Hughes. “The sad news is look how many people we have here and how many lives have been impacted.”
Speaker Hughes said he would like to see more action and pressure put on drug makers to the impact prescription painkillers have had.