Advocates and family members of those who lost their lives to prescription drug overdoses held a FedUp Rally on Monday at the Utah Capitol to focus attention on the problem. According to the Utah Department of Health, 289 Utahns died of opioid painkiller overdoses last year, up 5 percent from 2013. Moreover, opioid pain killer overdoses, from drugs such as hydrocodone, methadone and oxycodone, outpace deaths caused by other drugs that many people think are the primary culprits, drugs like cocaine and heroin. As a result, one Utah legislator is trying to get the word out that the situation is a “medical emergency.”
Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, a former high school teacher, lost a stepson and several former students to such overdoses. She participated in the rally in an effort to make young people understand the dangers and potential consequences of opiate addiction. She intends to continue her efforts in January, when she plans to introduce a resolution in the next legislative session to increase public funding to provide overdose first responders with prescription drugs that can reverse overdoses, known as naloxone or Narcan.
Rep. Spackman Moss has allies in her endeavor. A law passed by the Utah Legislature in 2014, allows those concerned about opiate addiction with friends and family to obtain prescription naloxone. Since that law was passed, Jennifer Plumb, a pediatrician at Primary Children’s Hospital, has spearheaded the distribution of several hundred free naloxone kits. The kits contain the vials of naloxone, as well as syringes and instructions for use. Such programs play an important role, because many insurance plans won’t cover the cost of the kits which is in the $40 – $50 range. The programs also get out the word that there is an effective way to combat opioid overdoses, which is critical in and of itself.
Bret Hanna of Wrona DuBois in Utah, focuses exclusively on litigating plaintiffs’ medical malpractice and catastrophic personal injury cases. He has represented clients in state and federal courts, in mediations, and in administrative proceedings in Michigan and Utah since 1991.