Rick Bowmer, Associated Press
FILE - _Utah's House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, discusses the launch of a new task force aimed at addressing opioid abuse in a state that has one of the highest rates of opioid-related deaths in the country during a news conference at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Friday, May 5, 2017._ After cheering on Salt Lake County leaders for suing opioid manufacturers, House Speaker Greg Hughes is now taking a trip to southern Utah to urge other counties to join the fight.

SALT LAKE CITY — After cheering on Salt Lake County leaders for suing opioid manufacturers, House Speaker Greg Hughes is now taking a trip to southern Utah to urge other counties to join the fight.

Hughes and Brian Besser, DEA district agent in charge in Utah, are attending the Utah Association of Counties annual conference in St. George to discuss the national opioid epidemic, according to a news release issued Thursday.

Hughes, specifically, will be focused on informing county leaders about their options to pursue litigation against opioid manufacturers and encourage them to follow the lead of Salt Lake County leaders, who announced last week they will be suing drug companies that "trivialized" the risk of opioids.

The Utah County Commission also pledged to start its own legal fight against drug companies after unanimously passing a resolution on Tuesday stating the county will pursue legal action against drug manufacturers and distributors by the end of the year.

"We must take this fight to those who have profited by making blatantly false claims that have adversely affected Utahns," Hughes said in a prepared statement. "Utah has an important and unique story that needs to be shared. Now is the time to act."

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Hughes' push comes amid Operation Rio Grande, the $67 million city, county and state effort to root out lawlessness in Salt Lake City's most troubled neighborhood, which up until the operation's Aug. 14 launch was known for its criminal activity and open-air drug market.

Salt Lake County officials say 90 percent of people who were arrested in Operation Rio Grande and assessed for drug court in jail were heroin users. Eighty percent of heroin users start with legal painkillers, according to the Utah Department of Health.