According to the Utah State Health Department, Utah is fourth in the nation for drug overdose deaths (2012–2014) and has experienced a 400 percent increase in prescription opioid-related deaths, averaging one opioid-related death every day in 2014. In 2012, Utah providers wrote 85.8 opioid pain reliever prescriptions per 100 people, the 22nd highest prescribing rate in the country.

Collaborating with the Community

To tackle this problem, Intermountain partnered with the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, the Utah Department of Health, Weber Human Services, Davis Behavioral Health, and other community agencies in 2015 to form the Opioid Community Collaborative (OCC).

Together, they are focused on these key areas:

  • Public awareness and education: Intermountain supported the “Use Only as Directed” multi-media campaign focused on the proper storage, use, and disposal of prescriptions. Drop boxes are provided in 21 Intermountain community pharmacies.
  • Provider education: Intermountain trained 1,500 medical providers about the consequences of opioid misuse, collected and shared baseline data regarding prescribing patterns, and developed care process models to guide prescribing practices.
  • Treatment: Intermountain funded a three-year demonstration project in Weber and Davis counties (Ogden has one of the highest death rates from opioid misuse in the state at 26.9 per 100,000 people) designed to test the effectiveness of medication-assisted treatment combined with counseling. The project targets underserved populations. Recently, Intermountain has also made naloxone (a life-saving medication that temporarily reverses the effects of opioids) available without a prescription in all its community pharmacies.

The Results

  • Better community awareness: In a 2016 Dan Jones survey of 600 individuals, 81 percent of respondents said they definitely believe prescription pain medication had a potential for abuse and addiction (up from 41 percent in 2010).
  • Increase in proper disposal: 6,404 pounds of medications were disposed of in Intermountain’s 21 community pharmacy disposal drop boxes over 15 months.
  • Effective treatment: In 12 months, the OCC project has seen an 83-85 percent abstinence rate for those who received medication-assisted treatment combined with counseling compared to 64.5 percent for those treated by local public health providers and without the use of medication-assisted treatment.

Example of Advertising Campaign Shown Across Utah