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Salt Lake County gets $600K federal grant to fight opioid epidemic

By Lauren Bennett, | Posted - Sep. 4, 2019 at 6:02 p.m.

SALT LAKE CITY — The U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded Salt Lake County a two-year, $600,000 grant to help prevent and reduce opioid overdose deaths in the area.

Salt Lake County is one of six other communities around the nation to receive the grant, according to a news release.

County councilman Steve DeBry, who co-established the Salt Lake County Opioid Task-Force, said the grant will help public health goals.

“We can learn from those who have died and those who continue to suffer,” he said in a statement. “This grant from the Bureau of Justice will further help us identify public health, behavioral health and public safety responses that will reduce overdose deaths and achieve other public safety and public health goals.”

The "Partnerships to Support Data-driven Responses to Emerging Frug Threats” grant is aimed at supporting coordinated responses to prevent opioid-overdose deaths, including illegal fentanyl, the release explained.

“The ability to identify trend data will help Salt Lake County better understand the evolving nature of the drug environment, help prioritize outreach efforts to high-risk populations and communities most impacted, enhance our ability to rapidly respond to emerging drug threats and assess the impact of intervention strategies,” the release stated about the grant.

Utah once ranked in the top 10 for overdose related deaths in the U.S. but now ranks 21st, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

In 2017, the most recent year data is available, around 15.5 people died died for every 100,000 people in Utah, according to NIDA. 2017 showed a decline in the numbers; in 2016 it was 16.4 and 16.8 in 2014.

Recently, Utah leaders have focused effort on addressing the opioid epidemic.

Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson noted that those who die from overdose aren’t the only victims in the epidemic.

“Children, family, friends and our entire community are collateral damage from this epidemic,” she said in the news release. “We see newborns experiencing withdrawal because a mother used drugs during her pregnancy. Sadly, drug-induced death is the most common cause of pregnancy-associated death in Utah according to a report released by University of Utah Health earlier this year.”

That report found that nearly 26% of pregnancy-related deaths were drug-induced between 2005 and 2014 — making opioid abuse the leading cause of death in new Utah mothers and pregnant women.

“There has also been an increased number of children living with grandparents or other relatives because of their parents’ addiction to opiates or other drugs,” Wilson added.

According to the release, the grant will allow behavioral health and public safety officials to “collect, share and analyze real-time and near real-time data” to reduce overdose deaths and reach other public safety and health goals.

Several other Utah entities have worked to fight the epidemic, including Intermountain Healthcare, which earlier this year [announced](<” target=>) it had reduced the number of opioid pills prescribed to patients.

Also Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced $1.8 billion in funding across the nation, of which Utah will receive $20 million over time.

Lauren Bennett

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