On Friday the Utah Attorney General’s office and Drug Enforcement Administration announced a new task force to create a more holistic approach to dealing with opioid abuse in Utah.
The task force includes local law enforcement agencies, elected officials, and public health groups.
Brian Besser is the DEA's District Agent in Charge for Utah.
"We want this task for to be as holistic and comprehensive, as well-rounded as possible. So that’s why we’re going into the medical community, we’re going into the law enforcement community, we’re talking about prosecution, we actually want to see new legislation be proposed," Besser says.
The task force is intended to combine law enforcement agencies to target drug trafficing, diversion programs to encourage responsible prescribing by pharmacists and drug makers, and community education and outreach.
Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes represented the state legislature on the task force. He said he intends to lobby the state’s Congressional delegation in Washington D.C. to bring more drug prevention resources to the state.
"Too often we are a fly-over state. Not in this one. We are one where this needs everyone’s full attention," Hughes says.
Jennifer Plumb is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and the Medical Director of the University of Utah’s Naloxone Program. She said a new conversation about pain medication needs to happen to have an effect on the opioid epidemic.
"We’ve gotten to a point where we kind of, as humans, expect that a pill will make every single thing better and unfortunately these pills make a whole lot of things worse," Plumb says.
Brian Besser with the DEA says the task force is being considered for additional funding through a DEA “360 grant.” Regardless of whether that's awarded, he says, the task force will move forward.