I’m honored to join Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes and DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian Besser as a co-chair of the Utah Opioid Task Force.
Utah is not immune to the opioid crisis sweeping the nation. It’s hard to find a Utahn who hasn’t had a family member or friend die or come close to death due to behaviors and conditions related to opioid abuse.
I look forward to working more closely with this task force in finding solutions. As part of this effort, my office will be organizing a opioid solution conference this fall, where we will to gather a number of experts, organizations, and community leaders so we can learn from each other, educate the community, and coordinate our efforts. More details on this conference are forthcoming.
The Social Capital Project
As vice chairman of the United States Congress Joint Economic Committee, I felt it important to investigate the evolving nature, quality, and importance of our associational life. “Associational life” is our shorthand for the web of social relationships through which we pursue joint endeavors — namely, our families, our communities, our workplaces, and our religious congregations. These institutions are critical to forming our character and capacities, providing us with meaning and purpose, and for addressing the many challenges we face. My staff has engaged in a multi-year research effort called the Social Capital Project to better understand associational life in America and its impact on our quality of life.
The Social Capital Project has produced some reports on the opioid crisis, including some very concerning numbers behind the crisis. Here are some things we’ve learned:
- Opioid overdose deaths continue to rise at an alarming rate
- Opioid-related deaths are shifting to younger demographic groups, typically white, single or divorced, and with relatively less formal education
- The oversupply and abuse of legal prescription pain relievers is at the heart of the crisis
- Hospitalization for opioids abuse has also risen across geographic, demographic, and socioeconomic groups
The full report includes a number of illustrations that portray how serious this crisis is. The one below shows how this has grown from an isolated problem to one that has permeated every state and affected both urban and rural counties.
You can find the full report on my website at lee.senate.gov.