SALT LAKE CITY – One and a half years ago, when she read Intermountain Healthcare's goal to reduce opioid prescriptions by 40 percent in 2018, Kelly Howard cried.
"Finally some noise on the subject," she recalls, thinking of herself
Howard's son Billy Perkins died in 2014 of an opioid overdose. Perkins, 26, was not prescribed an opioid at the time of his death, but bought the medication from friends instead.
"But when he got on the rollercoaster, he just could not get off."
She praised the hospital on Tuesday because it had almost reached its goal and drew attention to the serious problem.
"Well done, Intermountain Healthcare," she said. "Well-trained doctors and vendors for their commitment to reducing opioid prescriptions, they've made it."
Intermountain Healthcare reduced the number of opioid tablets prescribed to patients with acute pain by 3.8 million in 201
Acute pain is defined as short-term pain typically associated with Events such as fractures or surgery goes along.
In August 2017, the hospital announced its goal of reducing its opioid prescriptions by 40 percent in 2018, but still achieving a 30 percent reduction – something that Lisa Nichols, vice-president-in-chief, says for Community Health, can be proud.
"I think the conversation about the dangers of opioids has really opened up and the conversation about addiction and people's willingness to seek help has really changed," she said. "People are becoming much more aware and I think they are more sensitive."
She said the hospital is now focusing on reducing that number by 5 percent this year. According to the US Department of Health, Utah was one of only nine states to see a decline in opioid overdose deaths from 2016 to 2017.
Dr. David Hasleton, Intermountain Health's Chief Medical Officer, said dialogue between patients and physicians is the key to tackling the epidemic.
"It affects patients, it affects families," he said. "It has opened the door so they can ask us questions now.
Another important piece, he said, creates a dialogue between physicians.
"It's up to us to take the lead to find out how to do it better. he said. "Treat patients properly, but really improve community health and stop this epidemic."
Howard said her son had often tried to drop drugs, and she did not know how long he had to deal with the addiction before telling her about it two years before his death.
"It's all about stigmatization, about being ashamed or not knowing where to get resources," Nichols said.
Doug Thomas, director of the Utah Division of Drug Abuse and Mental Health, also spoke at the Co
"The Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health is committed to data-driven approaches that assess the impact of prescription drugs and their abuse in our communities reduce, "he said. "And finding ways to provide more treatment to those affected by it."
It's up to us to take the lead to find out how we can do it better. Treating patients appropriately, but really improving community health and stopping this epidemic.
-Dr. David Hasleton, Intermountain Health Chief Medical Officer
Thomas spoke about the success of the Use Only As Directed campaign and Intermountain Healthcare's mission to fight the epidemic.
"Because of this effort, more of our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, as well as our friends and our family live today," he said. Utah Department of Health program manager Anna Fondario pointed to the success of the Utah Coalition for Opioid Overdose Prevention, which was sponsored by Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is cited.
"The opioid epidemic and its serious consequences are well known in Utah, and a comprehensive, multi-agency approach is needed to reduce the number of overdoses," she said.
Addiction can happen to anyone, Howard said. Before her son became addicted to opiates, she said he was an avid reader, loved music and football and was a proud student of the University of Utah.
"I do not want him to forget," she said. "I do not want these sons, daughters, family members and friends to be forgotten – once very, very viable people who had a wonderful life, I do not think any of them decided to just be like that I want you to remember him. "