The battle against the opioid epidemic: ‘I never believed life outside of drugs’

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – There is some encouraging news when it comes to the battle to fight the opioid epidemic.

This week Salt Lake County announced it was awarded a $600,000 federal grant to aid its prevention and outreach.

While the state’s health department pushes for continued funding to provide a critical tool in preventing overdose deaths.

“I never thought that I’d get to this point. I thought I’d either end up in prison or be dead.”

In his 29 years of life, Tyler Jensen can recall a time he didn’t want to be alive.

“I was sick of always worrying about if I was going to live or die.”

Tyler began abusing opioids when he was 19. It was six years ago when things started spiraling out of control.

It was shortly after his mother died.

“I started doing heroin very heavy,” said Tyler.

Then seemingly “fate” would intervene.

“June 24th is the day I came in here, but two weeks before that I actually overdosed out on the streets,” said Tyler. “They had to give me a shot of Narcan to bring me back.”

“If it wasn’t for Odyssey House and Naloxone, I wouldn’t be here right now. They both saved my life.”

And saving lives is what those on the front lines of this epidemic want to do. Tyler is currently receiving treatment at Odyssey House in Salt Lake City.

It offers a drug addiction recovery program.

It’s a major step for anyone battling addiction just to have the initiative to walk through this door.

It’s an opportunity the Utah Department of Health would like to potentially provide for others.

Thursday, the department reported 255 lives have been saved by its outreach to provide naloxone kits.

The news comes just a day after Salt Lake County announced it’s receiving a $600,000 federal grant to prevent and reduce overdose deaths associated with opioids. The county anticipates the money will allow it to help identify drug trends and understand the nature of this epidemic to help prioritize its outreach efforts.

While Odyssey House isn’t directly connected to the county’s efforts, outreach is something Tyler is very grateful for.

“I never believed life outside of drugs until I was introduced to Odyssey. Odyssey saved my life and I”m thankful for them,” said Tyler.

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