Congress struggles to answer the opioid crisis

Oct 25, 2023, 7:00 AM

Naloxone vials, utah...

Riley Drage, a Utah Naloxone trainer, holds a naloxone vial prior to training for opioid overdose in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 23, 2023. (Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The opioid epidemic is a crisis in Utah and across the country.

It’s one of the few issues with bipartisan support. But, the U.S. isn’t making a lot of progress. Carmen Paun from Politico joined KSL NewsRadio’s Inside Sources to talk about why.

Five years ago, Republicans and Democrats got together to pass the SUPPORT Act. Paun said it provided over $20 billion for treatment, recovery, prevention and law enforcement.

It was meant to be a landmark bill that would make big strides in stopping the opioid crisis. Except it hasn’t really been that. According to the CDC, over 75% of drug overdose deaths in 2021 involved an opioid. 

Now the law is up for legal renewal, which happens every five years and can include bringing new measures.

Currently, programs have not been renewed by Congress. Paun said she thinks it’s because lawmakers aren’t sure what policies to include to make a change.

“That’s mainly because [of] fentanyl,” Paun said. ” It’s widely available, it can be easily disguised into pills that look like prescription pills.”

Ideas to help the opioid crisis

There are some ideas floating around on how to help with the crisis. Paun said one thing that could help is destigmatizing the issue so people don’t feel too ashamed to seek support and treatment. 

Another idea was discussed in the house. Paun said it was giving people who are incarcerated in county jails access to treatment and medication. 

“There were studies showing that when they get out of jail in those first 60 days is when their risk for an overdose is the highest because most likely they’ll go out and seek the drug again,” Paun said.

A controversial idea that is in the discussion, she said, is expanding access to methadone. Methadone is an FDA-approved medication that reduces opioid cravings and withdrawals

The drug is seen as the lesser evil compared to opioids.

“But there are also doctors who are licensed methadone prescribers, that are actually saying this might actually make the overdose crisis even worse,” Paun said. “Because then people maybe would not die from a fentanyl overdose, but they would die from a methadone overdose.”

Another common solution talked about on Capitol Hill is naloxone, which reverses opioid overdoses. It’s now available over the counter at pharmacies. 

Paun said there have also been efforts to prevent fentanyl from getting into the U.S.

It’s not confirmed, but Paun said it’s expected Congress will discuss the reauthorization of the SUPPORT Act next month. 

Related stories:

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Politics + Government

File photo of a Utah elementary school. The School Safety Security Task Force met Monday, June 17, ...

Briana Chavez

School Safety Security Task Force discuss new requirements for schools as part of new bill

One of the biggest requirements includes a school safety needs assessment. Each school in the state must fill one out.

8 hours ago

drivers memorial day...

Curt Gresseth

Is it time for Utah to bring back photo cop to bust speeders?

A Utah lawmaker joins the show to discuss a possible return of photo radar to bust speeders.

10 hours ago

View of Salt Lake City pictured, governor is cracking down on denver sending immigrants to utah...

Aimee Cobabe

Utah governor’s office pushing back against Denver for bussing immigrants to Utah

Gov. Spencer Cox's office says that the City of Denver did not consult with them about sending immigrants to Utah.

3 days ago

The Capitol is pictured in Salt Lake City, the governor hascalled a special session...

Sam Herrera and Jessica Lowell

Gov. Cox calls special legislative session to be held on Juneteenth

The special legislative session happens on Juneteenth. The governor's office said it would observe Juneteenth on Monday rather than Wednesday.

4 days ago

A Biden-Harris campaign sign is seen among signs for other Utah Democratic Party candidates during ...

Eric Cabrera

Stealing campaign signs could get you a misdemeanor charge

Police say stealing campaign signs from your neighbor's lawn could cost you a misdemeanor, or even the right to vote.

4 days ago

Image of GOP primary candidates for Utah's 1st Congressional District, Paul Miller (left) and the i...

Curt Gresseth

Utah’s GOP primary: Miller challenging Moore in 1st District

In the Republican primary, Paul Miller is challenging incumbent Rep. Blake Moore for Utah's 1st Congressional District.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Underwater shot of the fisherman holding the fish...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Your Bear Lake fishing guide

Bear Lake offers year-round fishing opportunities. By preparing ahead of time, you might go home with a big catch!

A group of people cut a purple ribbon...


Comcast announces major fiber network expansion in Utah

Comcast's commitment to delivering extensive coverage signifies a monumental leap toward a digitally empowered future for Utahns.

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Congress struggles to answer the opioid crisis