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Business community, board discuss prescription medicine abuse project

Jeff Olinger of the Department of Workforce Services and Georgina Nowak of Southeastern Utah District Health Department prepare for the monthly SPF-SIG Meeting at Four Corners Behavioral Health.

Members of the Carbon County business community met with the standing board of the state's prevention framework incentive grant program last Thursday to discuss the ongoing battle against prescription medication abuse in Castle Valley.

The meeting's two main topics of discussion were the recent three part substance abuse workshop put on by Four Corner's Behavioral Health and the workforce issues Carbon County continues to face due to substance abuse concerns.

The presentations were a massive success," said SPF-SIG director and Four Corners substance abuse specialist Liz Ferguson. "We got positive feedback from all three sessions."

During the Sept. 23 seminars more than 120 local residents received both professional and life experience information at the Carbon County Events Center concerning the devastating affects prescription drugs and methamphetamines can have on the individual and family.

Later more than 30 doctors, dentists and pharmacists were treated to a detailed seminar expounding on the dangers of uniformed treatment of pain management, specifically with the drug methadone by Dr. Kim Bateman.

Bateman's presentation stressed that doctors treat the prescription of these drugs seriously whether for pain management or substance abuse issues.

"Two people die per week of an opioid prescribed legally within the preceding month," warned Bateman at one point.

During the Oct. 28 meeting, Ferguson presented data that showed more than 80 percent of the participants within the program found the education useful.

The meeting's second topic, workforce expansion and retention, was discussed on two fronts.

Karl Kraync and Delynn Fielding of the Castle Country Expansion and Retention project presented their case for a continued effort to open space at Castleview Hospital specifically for non-crisis detox bed availability.

"Our whole intent is to increase the workforce in the area not only by aiding substance abusers trying to get their foot in the employment door, but by working with employers to develop an amnesty program for current employees that would allow them to come forward with a substance abuse issue and seek treatment without facing immediate termination due to a company's zero tolerance drug abuse policy," explained Kraync.

While the BEAR project has a specific interest in the program, the remainder of the board members and representatives from Four Corners are taking a broader approach to substance abuse treatment.

"In many different scenarios, I have seen Suboxone be used with a great amount of success both as a detox and long-term substance abuse treatment medication," indicated Dr. Sterling Potter, Castleview's current assistant chief of staff and a Four Corners board member. "I have seen it be used affectively in many ways to keep individuals leading functional lives."

Suboxone is an opioid medication that uses a combination of buprenorphine a partial opioid agonist and naloxone an opioid antagonist to treat opioid addiction as well as pain in some cases. According to Suboxone's official website at, the naloxone is present to discourage the abuse of the substance via intravenous injection. If used correctly, by being dissolved under the tongue, the patient receives very little naloxone and their cravings are then treated by the buprenorphine.

"I like to see a good combination of behavioral and medical treatment when it comes to opioid detoxification and treatment," said Dr. Potter. "I have seen a very low level of abuse in the patients I have treated with Suboxone and therefore find it to be a very positive solution to the devastating problems that can occur with prescription medication abuse."

As for the SPF-SIG program, according to Ferguson, their next task will be to garner further information by conduction key informant interviews to distinguish just how the prescription drug problem is manifesting itself in Carbon County.

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