Code Pink: Park City's Crisis of Teen Overdoses

PC’s overdose deaths trigger a high alert.

Six months ago, few parents had heard of U-4770. Then, two 13-year-old Treasure Mountain Junior High School students overdosed on the synthetic opioid, sometimes called “pink or “pinkie.” Police Chief Wade Carpenter is working closely with the school district to keep dangerous drugs out of students’ hands. Carpenter, chief since 2008, was recently elected to a leadership position in the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

1. What steps has Park City taken to combat the threat of dangerous drugs?

WC: We have focused on community and parental education and awareness events including two screenings of Chasing the Dragon [an anti-addiction film]; presentations on Naloxone/Narcan [emergency opoid antidote]; improved communications between the school and medical facilities; the implementation of the SAFE UT app [a hotline] and welfare checks on at-risk students.

2. Do you support mandatory drug testing for high school students participating in sports and extracurricular activities?

WC: The fact is, it’s not a police issue; it’s a community issue. Many students are themselves asking for drug testing.

3. Have parents gotten better at talking to their children about drugs?

WC: Yes. Tragedies like the ones we’ve experienced in Park City have pushed this conversation to the forefront. We might not have been at the level of engagement we needed to be before this. The need to discuss drugs is life-and-death. There are potentially deadly repercussions for not talking with your kids about the issue.

4. How can adults monitor social media to identify student drug use?

WC: We encourage families and students to utilize the SAFE UT app. We tell parents to check their kids’ backpacks and “virtual” backpacks. We work hand in hand with the school district to obtain school computers. We work with a task force made up of federal, state and local agencies to comb through social media and web data.

5. As Park City grows, what changes do you see in the Police Department?

WC: We will continue to not only keep up with emerging issues, but will do the utmost to stay ahead of the curve. It still has a small-town feeling, which is maintained even while servicing a huge number of people. According to a UDOT estimate, we police 57,000 people a day. A considerable number for a city of 8,000 full-time residents.

written by: Vanessa Conabee

profile photo by: Adam Finkle

Vanessa Conabee
Vanessa Conabee
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