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Utahns Battle Drug Overdose Epidemic with Life-Saving Rescue Kits

Andrea Smardon
Erin Finkbiner credits naloxone for saving her life and for making possible the life of her baby, Max, held by her mother Jan Lovett.

Every month, 49 Utahns die from drug poisoning. But advocates are trying to prevent more deaths by distributing a medicine they believe can save lives.

This week, families and friends of those who’ve died from opioid overdoses gathered at the Utah Capitol for a rally. Dennis Cecchini just lost his son in May.

“Our son’s name is Tennyson Adam Abraham Cecchini,” he says with a sob. Cecchini found his son slumped face down in the bathroom. He and his wife performed CPR until the paramedics arrived. “We watched as the life of our beloved son slipped away.” Physician Jennifer Plumb says there is something that can save lives.

“Simple, simple, simple,” Plumb says, “Two little doses of medication, two little syringes, and some paperwork.”

It’s a naloxone kit, and it can reverse an opioid overdose in one to three minutes. It’s been used by medical professionals for decades, but Plumb has been handing out kits for people to administer themselves at home. Erin Finkbiner says her life was saved by naloxone. Afterwards, she was able to get treatment, and in January, she gave birth to a baby named Max, who she holds at the podium with her mother by her side.

“I had no idea how much this little boy would do for me,” Finkbiner says. “With the support of my amazing family, the many friends that I’ve made in the recovery community, and of course the drive that my son gives me, I’m able to stay clean today.”

In 2014, Utah lawmakers passed a bill making it legal for anyone to administer naloxone, but Dennis Cecchini says he did not know about it at the time of his son’s overdose. The bill’s sponsor Democratic Representative Carol Spackman Moss says there is more work to be done to spread awareness. This year, Moss says she is working on a resolution declaring overdose deaths in Utah a public health emergency, urging state lawmakers to direct resources to address the crisis.

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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