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'Overdose prevention site' bill looking for second round with lawmakers

Addicted Utah: 'Overdose prevention site' bill looking for second round with lawmakers (Photo: KUTV)

Advocates are concerned lawmakers will leave substance use issues on the back burner this legislative session.

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Fewer than 10 bills have been filed so far that deal directly with substance use and treatment.

Mindy Vincent with the Utah Harm Reduction Coalition wants some of those bills will lead to big changes.

"I hope that we will get some things done," Vincent said.

She has witnessed the toll the pandemic has taken on people struggling with substance use disorder.

"I personally have known up to five people in one week die from opiate overdose," said Vincent.

One bill filed this year aims to prevent deaths from overdose.

House Bill 146 creates an "overdose prevention site," a place for people with substance use disorder to be monitored while actively using opioid drugs.

"This is in no way, shape, or form a policy that condones drug use or says that it is permissive to do so," said Rep. Jennifer Dailey-Provost, who is sponsoring the bill.

Dailey-Provost filed the bill in the last legislative session, but it didn't even make it to a committee.

"I hope people will look at this with an open mind," she said.

She didn't make any changes for this second attempt, and hopes it at least sparks an open dialogue.

"I'm committed to making sure that I do everything I can to force conversations to try new, innovative ways to solve this problem," said Dailey-Provost.

She recognizes that policy-making takes time and a lot of debate and that this particular policy seems sensational. But for her, it's about saving lives now.

It prevents people from dying, parents from dying, children from dying," she said.

When Addicted Utah first reported on overdose prevention sites in 2019, U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber said these sites would destroy the community while normalizing drug use to younger people.

"We're talking about inject dangerous drugs into the human body, and helping and assisting and subsidizing somebody to do that. That seems outlandish," Huber said in the 2019 interview.

2News did not receive a comment from Huber's office for this session.

Vincent, who has worked with Dailey-Provost on the bill, says it's time to be taken seriously.

"I have all the hopes that it will move somewhere this year," she said.

Vincent also hopes to see new policies that allow more access to telehealth services and medical cannabis. Bills are in the works for both.

To learn more about organizations offering addiction help and more, visit the Addicted Utah resources page.