A state program that distributes naloxone — a drug that can reverse heroin and prescription opioid overdoses — has saved 255 lives since 2017, a new state health report shows.

The Utah Department of Health said in a news release that lives were saved as a direct result of its Opiate Overdose Outreach Pilot Project.

In 2016, the department received one-time funding of $250,000 from the Utah Legislature. The money was used to purchase and distribute kits containing naloxone, a safe and legal drug that blocks the effects of opiates on the brain and restores breathing within minutes.

In the first six months of the program (Jan. 1 - June 30, 2017) a reported 1,971 individuals received naloxone kits and 54 lives were known to be saved, health department numbers show.

After the pilot program ended in June 2017, the department sought grants and other funding to continue purchasing kits.

Between May 1, 2018, and May 24, 2019, another 16,080 doses of naloxone were administered and 255 lives were known to be saved, the department said.

Lauren Radcliffe, opioid overdose prevention specialist with the department, said the report demonstrates the critical need to continue the project, as Utah experiences an increase in overdose deaths resulting from the use of opioids.

During 2018, she said, 417 total opioid overdose deaths were reported in Utah.

“We still have a long way to go in solving the issues around misuse, abuse, and overdose from opioids, but we are making progress," Radcliffe said in a statement. “We hope to continue increasing statewide access to naloxone. We have initiatives involving healthcare providers, pharmacists, and school administrators."