SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Flags at state facilities across the State of Utah have been lowered to half-staff after Governor Spencer Cox issued an order on Wednesday, Aug. 30.

The order would see flags lowered by sunrise on Thursday, Aug. 31 and to remain at half-staff until sunset the same day. Cox issued the order in recognition of Overdose Awareness Day.

Overdose Awareness Day was officially recognized in Utah through legislature passed in 2021. Sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason (R-Sandy) and Sen. David Buxton (R-District 4), Aug. 31 was declared as a day that urges Utahns to remember, raise awareness and do their part to support those impacted by overdose.

According to the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, 11 Utahns die each week from drug overdose, seven of which are the result of opioids, including prescription drugs. DHHS reported 178 prescription drug overdose deaths in 2021. The Center for Disease Control reports Utah saw 662 overdose deaths in total that same year.

“Communities across our state continue to be impacted by overdose-related fatalities, as well as by the struggles of loved ones with substance use disorders and mental health disorders,” Rep. Eliason and Sen. Buxton said in the bill.

The bill declares that with efforts such as education and access for naloxone – a drug that rapidly reverses the effects of overdose – as well as broad opioid awareness and education campaigns, Utah is now one of a few states with a decreasing overdose death rate.

However, CDC reports show that while Utah did see some decrease in the overdose death rate between 2015 and 2019, overdose deaths have steadily begun to rise again. In 2019, the overdose mortality rate in Utah reached a low of 18.9. That number has since risen to 21.1 as of the most recent reports.

Gov. Cox extended an invitation to Utah residents, businesses and organizations to follow state facilities and participate in recognition of Overdose Awareness Day.