SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – The opioid epidemic is sweeping the country, and Utah is one of the states hardest hit.
Its grip knows no boundaries.
"It is impacting literally everyone from children less than zero, to our elderly population, to moms, to anyone you can imagine," said Jennifer Plumb, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah.
It's been a big focus on Utah's Capitol Hill, and this year is no different.
Representative Steve Eliason is introducing three bills.
One, targets dealers by creating a penalty for drug induced homicide.
"There's an alarming trend that we are seeing now days where fentanyl is being mixed in with other opioids, and it's created a surge in overdose deaths. The dealers that are distributing this know that, and are putting people's lives in jeopardy," said Eliason, (R) Sandy.
His second bill would require healthcare employers to report employees who are caught abusing opioids.
The third, is about educating the public.
"Everything from the risks of addiction, to how to safely store it in your home, how to safely dispose of it and what to do if you find that you are addicted," Eliason said.
Representative Ray Ward, a family physician is also introducing a bill.
His would identify doctors who are writing prescriptions outside the Utah Clinical Guidelines on Prescribing Opioids and provide them with information on safer alternatives.
"I would say the most important step we can take is for physicians to stop writing so many high risk prescriptions, and for every narcotics prescription that is written to have an honest discussion between patient and physician about the risk of addiction from the very first minute," said Ward, (R) Bountiful.
Experts say you can also keep your family safe by locking up opioid prescriptions in the home, and by having the tools you need to reverse an overdose.
"Naloxone is an overdose reverse substance. We have great access to it in Utah and it will stop an overdose from killing someone, if you get to them in time," said Plumb.
Other lawmakers are also working on legislation to address the crisis. Opening day of the session is Monday January 22, 2018.
For more information on addiction, recovery and how to use Naloxone visit: www.utahnaloxone.org.
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