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Press Release

U.S. Attorney’s Office and DEA Announce the First Utah Drug Overdose Task Force to Combat the Opioid Epidemic in the Beehive State

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Utah
Through overdose crime scene training, the task force seeks to raise awareness and increase the number of prosecutable cases

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – United States Attorney, Trina A. Higgins and Acting Special Agent in Charge, Dustin Gillespie, of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Rocky Mountain Field Division announce the formation of the Utah Drug Overdose Task Force. 

Over the past few years, Utah has experienced a rise in overdose/poisoning incidents, and fentanyl has been the primary catalyst. According to the most recent data by the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, 603 Utahns died as a result of drug overdose in 2021. That same year, 67% of Utah overdose deaths were related to opioids and 29% were related to fentanyl. Learn more:

 “Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat the United States has ever faced, and Utah is no exception, said U.S. Attorney Trina A. Higgins of the District of Utah. “My office and our law enforcement partners are working every day to protect our communities from fentanyl and other illicit drugs and prosecute people who traffic these deadly substances. It is also our goal to raise awareness. Through the Utah Drug Overdose Task Force, I am confident we can make a difference.”

According to the DEA, Fentanyl has saturated the drug market in Utah. It is cheaper, more potent, and more widely available than ever before. 

The Utah Drug Overdose Task Force or UDOTF is a decentralized task force consisting of sworn law enforcement members from agencies across the Salt Lake valley. Led and coordinated by DEA’s Rocky Mountain Field Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah, the participants remain with their departments conducting their normal duties and serve on the task force as a collateral duty when needed. The goal of task force is to raise awareness and increase the number of prosecutable cases through proper evidence collection and preservation. 

Currently, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah has 10 cases either indicted or under investigation that are a result of the Utah Drug Overdose Task Force.  

“Through the task force we aim to consolidate intelligence, particularly digital evidence, from various drug overdose and poisoning crime scenes so that we may identify and exploit potential linkages between incidents, said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Dustin Gillespie, of the Salt Lake City District Office. 

The Utah Drug Overdose Task Force is made up of 10 state, local and federal law enforcement offices: 

•    Drug Enforcement Administration
•    Salt Lake City Police Department
•    Unified Police Department/Salt Lake City Sheriff’s Office 
•    Layton City Police Department
•    Sandy City Police Department
•    Ogden City Police Department
•    Davis County Sheriff’s Office
•    South Jordan Police Department
•    Homeland Security Investigations
•    U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah

Utah Drug Overdose Task Force is made possible through funding for state/local overtime provided by the Department of Justice Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF). Funding allows members of the task force to deploy to crime scenes (after hours) when requested to assist and guide a first responder thru the processing of a crime scene. DEA’s High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) has also assisted with supplies needed by the task force for preserving and securing evidence when at crime scenes. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the DEA created a checklist to serve as a guide for first responders arriving to an overdose/poisoning crime scene.

The Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach.

The High Intensity Drug trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, provides assistance to Federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States.  Utah is a member of the Rocky Mountain HIDTA (along with CO, WY, and MT).


Felicia Martinez
Public Affairs Specialist
(801) 325-3237
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Updated April 5, 2024

Prescription Drugs
Press Release Number: 24-40