April 13, 2020 (Salt Lake City, Utah) – The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute today released a comprehensive report providing information on the availability of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) in Utah for opioid use disorder (OUD). The report also highlights gaps in services, barriers to providing and accessing MAT, and considerations for improving the system—developed from discussions held with a range of stakeholders involved in addressing Utah’s opioid epidemic.
The purpose of this study was to assess the current MAT landscape in Utah in order to provide the legislature, policymakers, and other stakeholders with data and information that will enable informed discussions and decisions about MAT for individuals with OUD.
Top sheet results from the report include the following:
- Drug overdose is the leading cause of injury death in Utah, and opioid-related drug overdoses are a significant contributor to the rise in drug overdose deaths in recent history. In 2018, close to half of all opioid overdose deaths in Utah were prescription related, and 47% involved illicit opioids such as heroin.
- Fortunately, opioid use disorder (OUD) can be treated. Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) has shown to have positive, evidence-based effects on OUD.
- Some urban and rural residents lack access to MAT for OUD. An inventory of MAT programs and locations developed by the Gardner Institute shows several areas across the state may have insufficient access to medication treatment options.
- Discussion groups the Gardner Institute held with a range of stakeholders involved in addressing Utah’s opioid epidemic revealed more public education is needed to overcome MAT stigma. Stigma was noted as a key barrier to accessing and providing MAT, particularly in rural and underserved areas.
- This report can be used as a baseline for future studies that determine if MAT availability is growing and assess whether the changing MAT landscape is meeting the state’s evolving OUD needs over time.
The report was supported in part by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which through the Results First initiative encourages the use of research and data in policymaking.
While our country and state are focused on addressing the immediate concerns of COVID-19, it is important to remember that OUD is an ongoing public health issue that results in thousands of deaths per year and also impacts individuals, families, and local economies.
“While the indirect impacts from COVID-19 are yet to be seen on rates of drug use and misuse, OUD is a public health concern that existed before and will continue to exist after the current pandemic ends,” said Laura Summers, senior health care analyst at the Gardner Institute. “Understanding system gaps and barriers that limit both access to and availability of MAT, and continuing successful policies and programs developed in response to COVID-19, will help to ensure an adequate and sustainable MAT system in Utah.”
The full report is now available online.