KSL-TV plans to broadcast a live town hall-style discussion Friday evening to address the dangers of synthetic drugs following the deaths of two teenage boys in Park City possibly related to one of those substances.
A panel of educators, medical professionals, narcotics experts, faith leaders and others will discuss what some are calling a drug crisis occurring throughout Utah.
"We have a couple dead kids in this state. Why don't we act?" said Unified Police Sgt. Scott VanWagoner, who is slated as one of the upcoming panelists.
The live discussion begins at 6 p.m. and is designed for viewing only, with no live attendance. KSL-TV will also provide special coverage on the issue during its 5 p.m. newscast.
Those who want to join the discussion on Twitter can use the hashtag #UtahDrugCrisis. KSL-TV investigative reporter Debbie Dujanovic will be hosting Facebook live sessions about the drug crisis at 10:30 a.m., noon and 1:30 p.m. and will be taking questions in that forum.
Two 13-year-old Treasure Mountain Junior High School students — best friends Grant Seaver and Ryan Ainsworth — died two days apart earlier this week, according to the Park City School District.
Police have said they are awaiting toxicology test results from the two deaths before they can make a conclusion on how the two teens died. But Park City School District Superintendent Ember Conley said Wednesday there are indications on social media that the boys may have used an "experimental substance," possibly a drug known as "pink" or "pinky."
VanWagoner, who is currently a street crimes sergeant in the Millcreek precinct, is a 27-year Unified police veteran and has testified in court several times about narcotics. He said police consider synthetic drugs to be of urgent concern.
"We're on a path to try to save lives if we can, but you can't stop (people) from using it if they're hellbent on it," VanWagoner said. "That's the issue. ? This stuff, unfortunately it's cheap to get and easy to get and legal to get."
VanWagoner said the Utah Legislature was ahead of the curve nationally in identifying substances such as Spice and bath salts as illegal.
"By the time the (federal Drug Enforcement Administration) had even heard about it, we were already acting on it," he said.
The same needs to happen for substances such as "pink," which is known more formally as U-47700, the sergeant said. VanWagoner said he hopes the Controlled Substances Advisory Committee will focus on helping legislators quickly outlaw the substance.
"It's extremely dangerous to ingest any of this stuff. ... Why don't we act now?" VanWagoner asked. "We can act as a state."
The substance is frequently promoted by drug user communities online, making the deadly but legal substance even more of a threat, he added.
"It's troubling that we have such an epidemic. ? It's nothing that's going to be solved overnight," VanWagoner said.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, officers used K-9s to conduct separate locker sweeps at Treasure Mountain Junior High, according to Park City Police Capt. Phil Kirk. Crisis counselors were also deployed at the school this week.
On Wednesday, authorities reported a 15-year-old friend of Seaver and Ainsworth had attempted suicide. The boys' deaths are not currently considered suicides, but the possibility is being examined, along with several other potential causes, Kirk has said.
Synthetic substance such as U-47700 and fentanyl are extremely dangerous and should not even be exposed to skin, according to Brian Besser, the DEA regional agent in charge, who previously confirmed that his agency is looking into the deaths of the Park City teens.
Source : deseretnews.com