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Utah Battles Opioid Addiction Crisis While Congress Debates Funding Smart

Members of Congress met in conference Wednesday to hash out an agreement on comprehensive legislation to address the opioid epidemic. While the parties disagree about funding, Utah advocates say the need for help is urgent.

The President has called for $1.1 billion in new funding to help Americans get access to treatment. If approved, the White House estimates that Utah could see about 9 million dollars of that money. US Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell spoke to reporters on a conference call this week in advance of the Congressional conference.

“The simple fact is that changing the trends in this epidemic requires every one of us to work together in state houses and neighborhoods across our country,” Burwell said. “It also requires significant resources.”

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah is a member of the conference committee. He praised colleagues in both chambers for their bipartisan efforts on an important issue.

“We are now poised to take action on a conference agreement that the American people want and deserve,” Hatch said, but early reports indicate that the committee will not fund programs at the level that President Obama and congressional Democrats want. Without the funding, it’s not clear if the bill has enough support to become law.

Mary Jo McMillen is Executive Director of the Utah Support Advocates for Recovery Awareness.

“Every day we lose another Utahn who didn’t have access to treatment and may have been helped if they had the right care long enough and appropriate enough to meet their need long term so that they have the opportunity to get better, and that just doesn’t exist to meet the demand,” McMillen says.

Nationwide, about 12 percent of people who need treatment for opioid addiction are getting it.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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