Summit County Combats Opioid Crisis

In 2016, tragedy struck the Park City community when Treasure Mountain Junior High School students Grant Seaver and Ryan Ainsworth, 13, overdosed on the highly-potent synthetic opioid U-47700, commonly referred to as “Pink.” A 15 year-old boy was charged with reckless endangerment after ordering the substance on the dark web with a friend. In the summer of 2018, a community-wide alert notified residents that at least one of the teenagers who obtained the lethal dose of Pink in 2016 had again ordered overseas shipments of drugs. In addition to filing a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers on behalf of Summit County, newly appointed Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson has advocated for improved resources and services, working with law enforcement to combat an escalating public health crisis.

Shortly after Olson was appointed, one of the minors involved in the 2016 tragedy was charged with obtaining another synthetic opioid with bitcoin via the dark web.

“As soon as the case came into my office I wanted to go home and talk to my kids,” Olson explained. “I didn’t think that I should be alone in that privilege.” Olson took immediate action, issuing a community-wide alert to ensure families were aware of the danger. In addition to listing her phone number and email address on a press release, Olson helped facilitate a seminar on cybercurrency and the dark web this fall, heightening awareness for the methods involved in obtaining synthetic opioids.

For Olson, who works on the opioid epidemic every day, education and awareness are only the beginning. “We need to encourage parents to view law enforcement as a resource. Right now we have parents who might not even know what they are looking for or where to find it, and law enforcement needs to be aware of which illicit substances are circulating in the community.”

Summit County has limited options for detox, in-patient care or ongoing treatment. “We need better services and resources for families and individuals,” Olson stressed, explaining that the County hopes to attract social workers and therapists who in the past haven’t been able to afford office space in the community. As for the future, Olson remains positive, citing that many health care facilities are already changing protocol regarding opioids. “Opioid manufacturers misled medical professionals and the public about opioid use and addiction. It is my hope with this lawsuit that we take any damages awarded and directly utilize them in treatment, abatement and long-term leases for professionals to provide treatment for substance abuse.”

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Vanessa Conabee
Vanessa Conabee
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