SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (News4Utah) Utah appears to be winning the fight against the opioid crisis. Deaths rates dropped three years in a row, while nationally they continue to climb.
State and federal leaders try to keep the momentum going with a Solutions Summit at the Vivint Smart Home Arena Friday.
Five thousand high school students filled the arena, coming together to solve the opioid crisis. It’s part of a multi-prong approach getting national attention.
At 17, Dane Olsen was seriously hurt in an ATV crash in Utah County. For two years, he couldn’t walk, becoming addicted to the pain medicine prescribed by doctors. After a trip to rehab, he died from an accidental opioid overdose at the age of 25.
” It was absolutely gut-wrenching to go through that with him,” Terry Ann Olsen said, of her son.
Terry Ann spoke at the Solutions Summit with others who lost loved ones to opioid addiction.
“I was watching my son disappear in front of my eyes and watching him crying out for help, begging for a way to stop this,” Terry Ann said.
While opioid deaths rose ten percent nationwide last year, they fell by almost 20 percent in Utah. It was at the same time policy makers, law enforcement, treatment providers and others formed the Utah Opioid Task Force.
“This is one of the most successful programs we have in the country. We are going to take what we’ve learned here back to Washington. We are going to put this program throughout the entire country,” DEA Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon said.
To keep the momentum going in the state, the task force plans to introduce new legislation while reaching out to schools, churches, and businesses.
“We have to get rid of the judgment, shame and embarrassment, because far too many of our families have suffered in silence and in darkness,” Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said.
“If it can happen to our family, it can happen to any body’s family,” Terry Ann said.
To find resources on opioid addiction, go to utahsolutionssummit.com/resources