In response to teen tragedy, Park City, Summit County and schools need to rally
Friends and family of a Park City teenager who died unexpectedly on Sunday were still reeling with shock when they learned that one of the boy’s close friends died fewer than 48 hours later.
The causes of both deaths, so far, are unknown but police and school officials are taking the initiative by issuing a warning about a new synthetic drug that is making its insidious presence known in communities across the country.
Monday night, police and school district officials had begun warning parents to look for signs that their children might be exposed to the extremely lethal drug, U-47700, also known as Pink.
Tuesday, only a few hours after learning of the second fatality, Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter and Park City School Superintendent Ember Conley stepped up that effort by convening a press conference to underscore the danger.
The officials’ quick and open response to the tragedy could be a lifesaver, if not here in Park City then perhaps in another school district. Conley and Carpenter should be commended for sharing what they know so far and reaching out for more information from the community.
It must have been an excruciating decision to go public. They had to weigh whether to wait cautiously for toxicology results (which could take more than a week) and face the possibility of losing another student or risk the embarrassment of making a false assumption.
Fighting back her emotions, Conley was resolute. While there are still more questions than answers, she made it clear the school district is prepared to take this new threat head on. The district has called in crisis teams to work with students and staff, the police are scouring social media for clues about what might have caused the deaths, and both are working with the media to spread the warning about U-47700 along with other readily available opioids.
At times in the past, Park City, like many other image-conscious towns, has been reluctant to acknowledge it faces the same challenges as any other community. This time, though, Park City is throwing down the gauntlet.
According to Conley, “This is a problem that we know we need to tackle, from drug abuse to the mental health of our students.”
In the coming weeks, we encourage residents and organizations throughout the county, to join that effort.