Emery County is large in area, but small in population. But, per capita, Emery County has the same problems as other areas. One such area that will be explored in Part II is the incidence of drug use in the county.
Det. Garrett Conover from the Emery County Sheriff's Office said a lot of the crime in the county revolves around people committing crime to get drugs or money. Not only drugs and money, but they will steal items to sell or pawn to get money to buy drugs. "We have a really big problem with people committing home burglaries looking for prescription drugs. Lock your prescriptions in a safe or a lock box. Don't leave them lying around and don't leave them in medicine cabinets.
"Another thing people need to be aware of is not to advertise that you're having surgery or a procedure done. It makes you a target. People may try to steal or talk you out of your medication. You may have people break into your house to try to get them. Burglary is very serious. It is a second degree felony and then theft charges; people are breaking into houses, with the intent of stealing medication. You need to be very cautious.
"One thing we have found with our senior citizens is that people will just take a few pills out of a bottle. They won't steal the whole bottle and the seniors don't notice any missing. Lock up your drugs to avoid temptation.
"If people remain hooked on drugs, they will eventually end up in jail or they might die from drug use. We have people get in car wrecks under the influence of drugs and alcohol. We've had people overdose on drugs. It happens all the time, more than you know. If you have a problem, then seek help before it gets to the point where you lose your life, or end up in jail.
"We are still dealing with a lot of prescription drug use. We are still seeing methamphetamines out there. It's a small group we're dealing with, but there's still a lot of meth out there.
"You can probably find prescription drugs in every house in the county. People who are on them for injuries, surgeries, child birth, anything. What we need to realize is once we're done with a prescription and we haven't taken the whole thing we need to get rid of it, don't keep it. The sheriff's office will pick-up your prescriptions. You must take these prescriptions as directed by your physician. When you don't need them any more, get rid of them. Don't hoard prescriptions. Let us dispose of them properly. Sometimes when an older person dies and you clean out their house, they have tons of old unused prescriptions. These are dangerous to your children and your grandchildren. We need to keep children safe. Sometimes seniors get confused about their medications.
"We have the NOVA program through the sheriff's office and we work with children to try to educate them on the dangers of drug use. It's up to the family to keep this education going to. I would like to see more programs at the junior high and high school levels for drug education. One thing we've found helpful is for people who have had drug problems to come and talk to the students and let them know how drugs can ruin your life. A wrong decision you make today can affect you forever. We are seeing kids coming to school stoned on pills. Pills are easier to hide and harder to detect.
"Some kids are willing to try stuff without knowing what it is or what the affects can be. A lot of the people we deal with now, tell us they started when they were teenagers or they became hooked on prescription drugs after an accident or something like that. You should be careful when you go to the doctor and explore your options, ask for physical therapy to recover from an injury. Help eliminate the pain at the source, not just cover it up. A prescription may not always be the answer. Look for the root of the problem. Stay away from pills and medications as much as you can.
"Utah is bad for prescription drugs, people think if it's a prescription and a doctor gives it to you that it's OK and it might be as long as you take it as directed and only for your condition. Do not self-medicate. Only take as necessary or as directed. There's so many prescription drugs out there.
"You see a lot of overdoses. Heroin is still a problem with the younger generation. Emery County per capita is a little above average for drug abuse.
"It seems like when I was in school, there was a problem with alcohol, but now it's the prescription drugs. Alcohol use has declined. You don't see the big parties any more. Now two or three kids get together and pop pills.
"Parents need to be very observant when it comes to their kids. Watch for mood changes and changes in attitude. Mood swings are normal for teenagers, but if it continues, something is going on. Confront the kid, get them into counseling, do something. Help your children pick good friends. Good friends are the best deterrent. Your friends can help keep you out of trouble and the wrong friends can get you into trouble. Be involved with your children, but be a parent and not a friend, set rules and guidelines and stick to them. If there's a problem, don't hide from it, help them take care of the problem when it's small before it gets huge. It's easier to deal with when it's small. We see these problems get bigger and bigger and pretty soon a decision is made that will affect you for the rest of your life. The decisions you make today can have a bad affect on you for the rest of your life. Don't text and drive, don't drink and drive or do drugs and drive. Some people on prescription drugs drive and they shouldn't; that's impaired driving. Those prescription drugs mess with you and you shouldn't be driving. Tragedy can strike at any time, people think it won't happen to you, but it can happen.
"During the holidays you see more drinking and driving. Don't be afraid to call the sheriff's office for a shuttle. We don't have taxis in our area, but you do have friends who can drive you and you can always call us. We are happy to help. Behave responsibly if you are going to be drinking and don't leave home or get a ride.
"Drugs can lead to a lot of other crimes. People will do anything to get the money to buy drugs, so lock things up. Be a good neighbor and watch out for your neighbors. Watch your neighbors houses and report suspicious behavior. Don't be afraid to call the sheriff's office and report suspicious behavior. We would rather error on the side of caution. Be suspicious, don't live in fear, but protect yourselves and your property. Most of the time, it's a crime of opportunity. If the opportunity isn't there, kids won't try drugs, if the house is locked, they won't break in. That kind of thing. You might have adults that actively seek out drugs, but kids do not, sometimes if it's there they will try it.
"Kids really need to think about what doing drugs can do to themselves and their families. It's hard on your family. It creates a lot of stress. You need to think of the consequences before you do something stupid.
"Kids need a reality check sometimes, once they are 18 they will go to jail. You need to ask for help if you need it. Counseling and a good education can help you break the cycle of drugs," said Conover.
One of the programs the sheriff's office has implemented includes having those people whose lives have been ruined by drugs speak to the high school students. One speaker was Jeremy Hunt, who was high on pills when he struck a motorcycle driver with his car and killed him. Hunt has talked at several of the schools telling his story and encouraging kids to never start with drugs.
If you haven't started on drugs, don't start and if you have, quit before drugs take over your life and you can't get your life back.
Until 2007, Utah rates of adult prescription pain medication abuse were higher than national rates. In 2007 and 2008, Utah's rate was similar to the national rate. Non-medical use of prescription pain medication has also been decreasing among Utah youth since 2007. During this time, youth marijuana use has been increasing. Despite the decrease in prescription pain medication abuse, other than alcohol and marijuana, prescription pain medications are still the most frequently abused substances among both youth and adults in Utah. After alcohol and marijuana, prescription pain relievers are also the most common substances of abuse for which people enter treatment, and this rate has been growing steadily since 2002.
Becoming more aware as Emery County residents as to what is out there and doing what we can to combat the problems will lead to a safer and more healthy place for everyone to live.