By Julene Reese
The Utah State University Extension health and wellness team received a grant to address the opioid crisis in Utah by providing onsite overdose prevention training to service employees, particularly those who work at restaurants, hotels, bars, and other businesses that interact with the public. The training is designed to help employees identify the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose and learn how to use Narcan, a nasal spray that reverses opioid overdoses and saves lives. Employees who participate will receive Narcan at no cost.
“Research indicates there is an increased risk of service industry employees witnessing an opioid overdose at work or in their personal lives,” said Aaron Hunt, USU Extension health and wellness assistant professor. “These employees are sometimes the first to see and respond to an overdose at their business, but they often don’t have the proper training or resources on hand. We hope to change that and specifically want to train hotel employees, restaurant servers, convenience store clerks, construction workers, bartenders, and anyone else interested. Understanding how to identify the signs and symptoms of an overdose and how to use Narcan can save lives.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that overdose deaths have increased in the U.S. and Utah, especially with the increase in fentanyl use, a powerful opioid. Just two milligrams of fentanyl can cause death. It can be found in counterfeit pressed pills, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines.
It is estimated that in Utah in 2020, a bystander may have been present in 62% of overdose deaths, and 81% of deaths had at least one potential opportunity for intervention. Hunt said his team is focused on training business employees in eight counties in Utah with high overdose rates, including Cache, Carbon, Duchesne, Emery, Salt Lake, Uintah, Utah and Washington. Training can also be held in other counties upon request.
Hunt said businesses that register for the training will receive an emergency overdose response kit to keep on-site that includes Narcan, a CPR mask, gloves and other key items needed to respond to an overdose. Employees who attend the training will receive a Narcan kit and wallet card with self-care information. Each training will last approximately 40 minutes and can be scheduled during shift changes, existing training times, or other convenient times for employees. Trainings will be provided through the end of 2024.
“Empowering people through training is a first step in reducing opioid deaths,” Hunt said.