Battling the Opioid Threat

AG Reyes meeting with U.S. Senator Mike Lee and other Utah Opioid Task Force members

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is the undeniable leader at the state level against Utah’s epic battle with the opioid epidemic, a plague that has ruined and robbed so many Utah lives. For a generation, America was lured into false security that opioids were not addictive and could solve most pain issues. But the drugs were highly addictive, over-prescribed by physicians and led to abuse and death at an unprecedented rate. More Americans were dying of opioid-related overdoses in a single year than to breast cancer or auto accidents. Prior to his taking office, deaths in Utah related to opioid addiction were at an all-time high and had been increasing for a decade. 

In 2014, Reyes made fighting the opioid menace one of his top priorities, starting with discussions in schools and community meetings about eliminating the stigma and social judgment attached to addiction. He engaged with the medical community about changing prescribing practices and with pharmacists about electronic prescriptions to validate their legitimacy and having pharmacies limit number of days filling opioid prescriptions regardless of the duration for which it was written. 

Early in his tenure, Reyes began working with the treatment and recovery community while aggressively pursuing cases from a law enforcement angle. For education and awareness, he supported Utah filmmakers like Jenny Mackenzie to portray the seriousness of the threat. And, in communities around the State, Reyes promoted Utah Naloxone, helping to change law enforcement attitudes about the life-saving drug. Similarly, he began discussing criminal justice reform to address more healing and recovery over incarceration. And he collaborated closely with legislators to get better data, more resources and better coordination among stakeholders. 

In 2016, Reyes teamed with DEA’s Brian Besser and later with U.S. Senator Mike Lee to create and co-chair Utah’s Opioid Taskforce, which immediately became a proving ground for rapid implementation of solutions across numerous communities and industries. With the help of local, state and federal partners, Reyes and the Taskforce embarked on a tour de force, training and educating communities around the State, hosting cabinet and national leaders, filing law suits, supporting legislation, investigating technology, collecting unused drugs, prosecuting major opioid cartels, applying for grants, helping procure funding and amplifying all the AG office was doing.

Taskforce wins led the Trump administration to invite Attorney General Reyes to a White House summit to train leaders from across America on successes in Utah, including a 2018 event at Vivint Arena where thousands of Utah students attended from across the state for Opioid education and resources. Finally, Reyes, has filed major lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors of the State and is on the national leadership team that is negotiating billions of dollars for prevention and treatment resources from a possible settlement. 

As your Attorney General, Reyes:  

  • Created and co-chairs the Utah Opioid Taskforce
  • Has helped shepherd Utah to see its first reductions in rates of Opioid deaths  
  • Has personally visited, trained leaders and brought resources to counties across Utah 
  • Narrates one of cable giant A&E’s top shows called “Addiction Unplugged” to help Utahns and Americans find hope in the fight against addiction 
  • Was a special guest of President Trump to the White House to declare Opioids a National Public Health Emergency
  • Partnered with DEA/US Attorney to successfully dismantle and prosecute one of largest Dark Web Fentanyl rings in United States 
  • Trained at the White House local and state leaders from across America on Utah’s successes in combating the opioid epidemic
  • Filed major lawsuits worth potentially tens of billions of dollars against manufacturers and distributors of opioids; is on national AG leadership committee for distributor cases 
  • Co-created with Senator Mike Lee and the DEA the annual “Instead Summit”, brought the Wahlberg Foundation and many celebrities and athletes and high school students across Utah together to empower youth in the opioid fight
  • Promoted state-wide and local drug takeback programs and helped increase by 4x the amount of old and unused drugs collected from medicine cabinets and homes in Utah
  • Supported safe disposal technology and programs to facilitate proper destruction of drugs collected in takeback programs 
  • Recorded statewide PSAs promoting opioid awareness, drug takeback and other programs related to overcoming opioid threat
  • Partners with Utah Naloxone to get the life-saving drug into hands of Utah communities 
  • Helped stand-up first program in Utah with the Bountiful Police Department to allow treatment as a first option rather than incarceration for low level addicts 
  • Supported, spoken at, brought media and attention to many events and programs for the Utah treatment and recovery community

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