Herbert voices support for overdose laws

Friday , April 11, 2014 - 2:23 PM

Annie Knox, The Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and other lawmakers gathered Friday to show their support for a pair of new laws designed to prevent drug overdoses.

One of the new laws encourages drug users to report a friend who has overdosed.

Under the measure, calling 911 for such a companion would work in favor of people charged in drug cases because courts would consider it a mitigating circumstance.

The other bill stipulates that people acting in good faith are immune from liability in giving Naloxone to a person who is having an opiate-related overdose.

“We came up with two really good policies that will save lives,” Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D Salt Lake City, said at a special ceremony on the laws that have been passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor.

The reporting measure is currently in effect. The other bill takes effect on May 13.

In Utah, treatment for heroin addiction has risen sevenfold since 1993, according to figures from the Utah Department of Human Services.

Joel Millard, executive director of the Project Reality substance abuse treatment center in Salt Lake City, told The Associated Press last week that many Utah addicts start with prescription opiates like Oxycontin and move to heroin because it’s cheaper.

In recent years, the ages of those admitted into Millard’s clinic have been younger by an average of about five years, he said. About 1 in 5 were 18 to 23.

The figures are based on admissions paid for by public funds. The numbers do not include people who paid for substance abuse treatment through private insurance.

The 104 heroin overdose deaths reported in 2012 — the most recent figures available — climbed from an average of 78 over the previous 11 years.

In all but 5 percent of the deaths, the person who overdosed combined heroin with another illegal or prescription drug, with cocaine being the most common.

Heroin is much more prevalent in northern Utah’s urban corridor than rural areas, officials say, because the denser neighborhoods make it easier to sell and buy.

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