Salt Lake County receives federal grant to continue fighting the opioid epidemic

Salt Lake County is one of six communities across the nation that has been awarded a two-year, $600,000 grant from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance. The money will support coordinated, cross-sector responses to prevent and reduce overdose deaths associated with opioids, including illicit fentanyl.

The Partnerships to Support Data-driven Responses to Emerging Drug Threats will bring together public health, behavioral health and public safety representatives to collect, share and analyze real-time and near real-time data to meaningfully reduce overdose deaths and achieve other public safety and public health goals. 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.

Until recently, Utah has ranked top 10 in the nation for overdose deaths. Utah now ranks 21st. According to the CDC, the number of opioid overdose deaths from 2017, which are the most recent numbers available, show 15.5 deaths for every 100,000 people. That’s down from the 16.4 in 2016 and down from 16.8 in 2014. The recent decline is good news and is likely the result of efforts being made to educate residents about the dangers of overdoses as well as other prevention and treatment programs that are underway. However, over the past three years, 911 calls in Salt Lake County have remained consistent, averaging more than 4,700 a year. In 2017, there were 245 drug overdose deaths in Salt Lake County.

Noting that those who have died or overdosed aren’t the only victims, Mayor Wilson stated, “Children, family, friends and our entire community are collateral damage from this epidemic. 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.” Mayor Wilson went on to say, “The study showed postpartum women who have previously or currently struggle with substance abuse are at greater risk of overdosing. 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.”

County Councilman Steve DeBry who co-established the Salt Lake County Opioid Task-Force added, “We can learn from those who have died and those who continue to suffer. 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.”