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Team of Legislators Tackling Utah's Opium Problem

The Utah Department of Health

Utah is fourth in the nation for opioid overdose fatalities. A team of Representatives in the House is introducing legislation to tackle the growing problem.



Representative Carol Moss is heading up the project. She is attempting to classify Utah’s opium problem as a statewide epidemic and a public health emergency. She says there were over 500 deaths from opioid overdoses in Utah alone last year.

Rep. Carol Spackman Moss

Representative Moss, Steve Eliason, Mike Mckell and Lowry Snow are presenting a series of bipartisan bills that are aimed to address the growing opium problem in Utah. The bills are multi-faceted and address the issue from several different angles, though most of them deal with a drug called naloxone.


But what is naloxone?

It is a synthetic drug, similar to morphine, that blocks opiate receptors in the nervous system. Or in other words, it saves lives by treating narcotic overdoses with few side effects.

“It is a miracle drug,” said Rep. Moss.

Moss said not many people know about the life-saving drug. It is hard to come by, especially in rural areas where opium overdoses are most common.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, is sponsoring a bill that would allow naloxone to be given to family, friends and volunteers who interact with at-risk opiate users. Rep. Mckell’s goes hand-in-hand with Eliason’s bill. Mckell is attempting to work with the Department of Health to build an outreach program that would train family and friends of at-risk opiate users to safely administer Naloxone. Moss says the administration of the drug would be much like the administration of an EpiPen or a nasal spray. Rep. Moss also has a bill called the Overdose Response Act, which would allow someone to administer naloxone to an individual who is overdosing on opioids without the burden of a civil liability.

Rep. Mike Mckell, R-Spanish Fork, is sponsoring a bill that would establish an overdose database.

Rep. Eliason is sponsoring a bill that would establish a needle exchange program with the hopes of lowering the likelihood of contracting disease related to opioid use.

Representative Lowry Snow, R-St. George, is sponsoring a bill that would require all pharmacies to have places where they can take their outdated or unused prescription drugs and dispose of them.

The bills will be introduced throughout the legislative session.