Utah opioid task force: Spend settlement money on treatment, prevention

Jan 31, 2022, 1:52 PM

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)...

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Opioid Task Force hopes that the millions of dollars the state will receive from a settlement with drug companies will significantly help combat the opioid epidemic. Specifically, they’d like to see the money go toward treatment.

Their request comes after conversations with experts, community members, and people directly affected by the opioid epidemic. The committee chair says a common and reoccurring theme is that the state should spend the money on treatment.

“I was really pleased to get as much criminal justice and public safety and law enforcement input,” said Dr. Jennifer Plumb, “and see how much of it was gravitating towards diversion, away from the punitive model.

“And diversion away from the ‘we can slap your wrist hard enough so you’ll stop doing this,’ (model).”

The Utah Attorney General estimates that Utah will receive $309 million over the next 18 years from the opioid settlement. But it is unclear at what point the money will start arriving.

The task force gave their recommendations to Utah lawmakers on Monday. The chair of the settlement advisory committee, Brent Kelsey, said that whenever the money does come, Utah needs to be prepared.

“The opioid crisis has taken a huge toll on individuals and families and communities in Utah, and this is a rare and unique opportunity to turn that around,” Kelsey said.

Plumb agreed, saying that Utah receiving this money is an “unprecedented” opportunity to save lives.

We’re asking that you please don’t spend all this money at once, and we also think it’s important that we report to the public on where this money is going.”

The task force is charged with providing guidance on how the money is spent, but Utah government officials will decide where the money goes.

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Utah opioid task force: Spend settlement money on treatment, prevention