SALT LAKE CITY—No community is immune from what is being called the “opioid crisis” in the United States. Every day 115 people die because of opioid abuse. Just like other segments of society, the Catholic community in Utah is feeling its devastating effects.
To try to address this tragic and unnecessary loss of life, the Diocese of Salt Lake City is partnering with local and national community leaders, including Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation.
“Opioid abuse issues are important to everyone, including many parishioners,” said Jean Hill, the diocese’s government liaison. “We would like to be a partner in finding solutions for these addictions.”
Diocesan leaders are encouraging youth in local Catholic schools grades seven to 12, and their parents, to attend the youth portion of “Instead: Connecting for a Cure” 2018 Utah Solutions Summit for information about this issue.
Parents are also being encouraged to attend the Friday afternoon session for adults.
The summit, now in its fifth year, is organized by Sen. Mike Lee and generally brings Utahns together to address economic issues, Lee’s state director Robert Axson said. However, about 18 months ago Lee began looking at the economic and social consequences of opioid addiction.
“It became very clear that the opioid crisis is one example of ailments our society experiences when we lose connection,” Axson said. “Through the Joint Economic Committee (of which Lee is vice chair), Sen. Lee became deeply concerned that both the economic and human cost of this epidemic is tremendous and determined to do all he could to convene and coalesce a community approach to seek solutions to this problem.”
The summit will focus on the opioid crisis and how local community leaders can develop solutions to this epidemic. It will also explore alternatives people can use to bring joy into their lives rather than turning to opioids for relief from pain, loneliness and depression.
The half-day youth event will include speakers, breakout sessions and entertainment designed to educate junior and high school students about the dangers of opioid addiction and encourage them to be a part of the solution.
“We encourage parents to attend with their child wherever possible,” Hill said. “It’s important for parents to know what their kids are hearing and to see what they’re experiencing.”
Hill hopes to have a representative from the Catholic Church participate in the faith leaders’ panel to talk about how Church and parish leaders can engage parishioners to help each other.
“This is important to Bishop Solis,” Hill said. “He definitely sees from a pastoral side how devastating this can be. It is a national topic that is important to everyone.”
WHAT: Opioid Abuse Prevention Summit
WHEN: Friday, Oct. 12 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
WHERE: Vivint Smart Home Arena, 301 South Temple, Salt Lake City
Free and open to the public, but preregistration at utahsolutionssummit.com is required. Youth should register under the school portal even if they attend with their parents. Adults should use the code “together” to have the $25 ticket fee waived.