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Bear River Health Department Focuses On Opiate Education As Overdoses Soar

The Utah drug overdose rate has remained one of the highest in the nation for several years now. In light of the release of statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Department in Bear River has been redoubling their drug education efforts to battle the opiate epidemic.

The director of the substance abuse treatment program at the Health Department in Bear River, Brock Alder, wants to focus on making sure that prevention education is provided to the community.

“What is most important right now is to make sure that we are getting education to everyone who really needs it. We are making tons of effort to provide the right educational opportunities, but our message is not always getting to where it needs to be heard by the people that need to hear it,” he stated.

The rate of prescription drug deaths across the state of Utah came out as seventh in the nation, according to the 2014 reports that were released. Utah has over twenty-two deaths per 100,000 residents in the area, with the Utah Department of health reporting that over sixty-eight percent of those deaths were caused by accidental overdoses.

These numbers quickly prompted the department in Utah to redouble their efforts regarding public awareness, using one-time funding for this sort of education for overdose prevention. Alder has stated that the Bear River Health Department has been seeing a steady increase in the amount of local opiate abuses in the area, even though their statistics are lower than the states. They reported under seventeen overdose deaths for 2014.

However, with the increase in abuse, they are also seeing a dramatic increase in the amount of individuals who are seeking treatment for opiate abuse. Most of Bear River’s treatment services have historically gone to alcohol treatment, but now twenty-two percent is going to the treatment of methamphetamine addiction and eighteen percent is going to opiate addiction.

Alder explains this increase as the rise in the growing trend of opiate addiction that is currently plaguing the entire United States.

“Heroin is becoming cheaper and far more accessible than prescription pills in our area. That will quickly account for the rise in opiate abuse, but we have seen that our residents have found creative ways to sneak their prescription pills if that is their drug of choice,” Alder commented.

Alder reports that the Health Department is using a combination of one-on-one sessions and group therapy to help addicts. With no in-patient residential services, they have to focus on intensive outpatient services. With group treatment that lasts three hours each session and runs four days a week, they have found a high level of success in their drug treatment.

Even with comprehensive programs that don’t turn anyone away, the overdose rate is still high. Alder is concerned that the reason that is true is because of the lack of information in the right places. To respond to this lack, the department has been expanding their services to jails and marketing to younger individuals. With this new treatment roll-out, prisoners who rare working on their recovery in jail can transition to outpatient when they are released.  

“The more we are educated as friends and neighbors, the more that we are able to make sure that the education is going to those who really need it,” Alder stated.

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