Program Provides Naloxone to Curb Overdoses: To date, 255 lives have been saved

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) today reported 255 lives have been saved as a direct result of the Opiate Overdose Outreach Pilot Project created by the Utah State Legislature two years ago.

The report also demonstrates the critical need to continue the project, as Utah experienced an increase in overdose deaths resulting from the use of opioids.

From 2017 to 2018, the number of prescription opioid overdose deaths increased by 1.8% (from 217 deaths to 221 deaths). The number of heroin overdose deaths increased by 17.2% (from 122 deaths to 143 deaths). The number of deaths involving both prescription opioids and heroin increased by 76.7% (from 30 deaths to 53 deaths).

During 2018, 417 total opioid overdose deaths were reported in Utah.

“We still have a long way to go in solving the issues around misuse, abuse, and overdose from opioids, but we are making progress. We have great support with partners at the
state and local level as well as in the healthcare and private sectors,” said Lauren Radcliffe, opioid overdose prevention specialist with the UDOH.

The two-year Opiate Overdose Outreach Pilot Program was implemented in 2016 with one-time funding of $250,000. The goal of the program was to reduce opioid overdose death by distributing naloxone kits. Naloxone is a safe and legal drug that can reverse heroin and prescription opioid overdoses by blocking the effects of opiates on the brain and restoring breathing within minutes.

The pilot program ended in June 2017, and the UDOH has had limited funding to meet the statewide demand for naloxone.

Currently, the UDOH can purchase about 168 naloxone kits per month, far below the number of requests UDOH staff receive for targeted naloxone distribution.

“We hope to continue increasing statewide access to naloxone. We have initiatives involving healthcare providers, pharmacists, and school administrators,” said Radcliffe.

In addition to distributing naloxone, the UDOH has implemented several initiatives to address the slight increase in prescription opioids deaths. Including:

  • Disseminating more than 257,000 opioid related materials (e.g. brochures, pocket cards, posters, etc.).
  • Encouraging healthcare providers to talk to their patients about the risks of taking opioids and to follow the Utah Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.
  • Working with schools to implement an opioid overdose emergency report policy in 25 school districts and helping to ensure 31 school districts have naloxone available.
  • Partnering with the University of Utah Poison Control Center, a “Naloxone for Opioid Overdose 101”training was developed for the public, first responders, and public safety officers. Participants receive a certificate of completion at the end of the training.
  • Funding the Stop the Opidemic campaign since 2016, with messaging around overdose, naloxone, and healthcare provider involvement; the campaign has recently started to share messages of recovery.

“While we continue to address prescription opioids deaths, we also want to share people’s stories of recovery many of which include heroin. We understand that naloxone is what Utahns need in order to reverse an overdose and continue on to recovery,” said Radcliffe.