SALT LAKE CITY — The lives of 46 people in Utah were likely saved during the first six months of the year by police officers who gave them a drug called Naloxone, which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, according to state data.

The overdose victims were saved as part of a state-funded pilot program aimed at reducing high rates of opioid death in the state, The Salt Lake Tribune reported ( ) Thursday.

The state Department of Health awarded 32 agencies, including police and health departments, about $236,000 to buy Naloxone kits and train employees how to use them.

Agencies not receiving state money also reported purchasing and distributing Naloxone throughout the same time period. Those agencies bought about 1,200 kits, leading to another 25 people being saved, according to the data.

Utah ranked seventh in the nation for overdose deaths from 2013-15, with an average of 24 people dying each month from a prescription opioid overdose in 2015 alone, according to the data.

“The funding for the pilot program has been critical to ensuring access to Naloxone for those at greatest risk of an overdose,” said Joseph Miner, the state Health Department’s executive director. “Providing Naloxone may mean the difference between life and death for those struggling with opioid addiction.”

The state made Naloxone more accessible in December by allowing pharmacies to hand it out without a prescription. And then in January, the health department launched a statewide campaign, complete with billboards lining the highways, to education people about opioid addiction.

While this month, Intermountain Healthcare, one of the region’s largest care providers, pledged to slash the number of opioid tablets its physicians and other health professionals prescribe by 40 percent by the end of 2018.

Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune,

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