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Utah County has developed community-wide public/private partnerships to educate its residents about the risks associated with prescription pain medication and to promote a conversation between patient and doctor about effective alternatives.

Salt Lake City, February 13, 2018 - Addiction to prescription pain medications, also known as opioids, is an epidemic in Utah and across the nation. For many, addiction began with a legal prescription. To educate the public about this health crisis, Intermountain Healthcare, MountainStar Healthcare, Wasatch Mental Health, Utah County Department of Drug and Alcohol Prevention & Treatment and the state's prevention campaign, Use Only as Directed, have joined forces to encourage Utah County residents to Speak Out, Opt Out and Throw Out their prescription opioids.

On Thursday, February 15, at 11:00am at Mountain View Hospital - 1000 E. 100 N. in Payson - leaders from three participating healthcare organizations will join with local prevention experts and Utah County Commissioner Bill Lee to unveil the widespread public awareness campaign. The gravity of the problem in Utah County, including the particularly hard-hit Payson community, is underscored by Utah Department of Health morbidity (injury) data that reports Utah County is one of the top five hotspots in the state for emergency department visits due to opioid misuse/overdose. These concerning trends have mobilized the county's public and private healthcare organizations to deliver a unified public health message to their patients. Specifically, the local effort also includes opioid prevention messages in its community mental health clinics - a crucial, under served audience where 60-70 percent of patients being treated for a mental health disorder also have a substance use disorder.

Large-scale messaging throughout the hospitals and clinics will educate patrons to the fact that 7,000 opioid prescriptions are issued each day in Utah, increasing the chance for misuse or abuse; and will remind Utahns that while prescription pain medications can be a powerful healing tool, it can take just seven days to develop a physical dependency to opioids. "MountainStar Healthcare is pleased to be part of an educational campaign that supports our commitment to patient safety. It complements and enhances our initiatives to empower our patients and caregivers to work together to make more informed, healthier choices about pain management," says Janet Zarndt, Director of Pharmacy Services for MountainStar Healthcare.

Partners in the initiative are encouraging Utah County residents to Speak Out, by having a conversation with their doctor about the potential risks of opioids and Opt Out of prescription pain medications in favor of other CDC-recommended, effective alternatives. "Intermountain Healthcare has set a goal to reduce the number of opioid tablets prescribed for acute pain by 40 percent in 2018. We are committed to working with our patients and providers to improve the health and well-being of the communities in which we serve," stated Kevin Brooks, MHA, administrator of Intermountain Healthcare Utah Valley Hospital. The partnership with five Intermountain hospitals and clinics, two MountainStar hospitals and four Wasatch Mental Health clinics will also feature signage about the Five Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Opioids, and Throw Out messaging directing patrons to use their local medication drop box for safe disposal of leftover opioids.

Residents who have been directly affected by someone struggling with prescription opioid addiction will also be in attendance when the Speak Out, Opt Out, Throw Out campaign is unveiled to show their support for local prevention efforts. "Opioid misuse is a community problem that requires a community solution. That's why partnerships like these are a crucial part of turning the tide, helping us move upstream to prevent substance use through local outreach and education," says Heather Lewis, ASUDC, prevention program manager at Utah County Department of Drug and Alcohol Prevention & Treatment.

The Use Only as Directed campaign, a collaboration between federal, state, city, county and private businesses, was launched in 2008 and is dedicated to preventing prescription opioid misuse and abuse. By mobilizing media, community partnerships and local outreach, it seeks to educate Utahns about the risks associated with opioids and other effective pain management alternatives, as well as change behaviors regarding proper use, storage and disposal of prescription opioids. For more information and to find a local medication drop box near you, visit UseOnlyAsDirected.org

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