Those entangled in the labyrinth of drug use - both abusers and those who want to help - agree almost unanimously that hope itself is the best, and maybe the only, weapon against the biggest threat to our community.
They say hope brings the strength needed to break the bonds of dependency.
In the past four editions, the Sun Advocate has shown an up-close look at substance abuse in Carbon County. We have told about those afflicted by the disease of addiction and those working to curb its hold on the community. As the series closes, we look to a broad coalition of diverse and dedicated people who are shining light and hope where darkness and fear have taken hold.
"Suicide and drug abuse is consuming this community," said Diane Lodeserto, a program specialist at the Southeastern Utah Health District. "Our families and children are falling prey to a devastating problem."
While Lodeserto is clear about the danger she sees in Carbon and Emery County, she is far from despair. She has helped to organize a coalition called the Hope Squad of Carbon and Emery Counties.
The Hope Squad is a partner organization aimed at bringing awareness and resources to those facing addiction and the loved ones who support them. It is comprised of the Carbon County Ambulance Service, Four Corners Behavioral Health, the Southeastern Utah Health District, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Greek Orthodox Church, 4-H, BACA, Castleview Hospital and the Boys and Girls Club of Carbon County.
Their Dec. 13 Hope Festival drew more than 150 people to the Greek Orthodox Church. Santa, who is a big draw at this time of the year, was in attendance and the squad used his power to bring a crowd to spread information about education and the prevention of substance abuse and suicide.
Over the past week, the Sun Advocate's offices have been visited by several groups hoping to make their services known. For instance, Rev. Lester Huseby of the Price United Methodist Church and his partner, retired police Lt. Ed Shook, came in to discuss the church's success with Narcotics Anonymous in Carbon County.
"We have a special thing going on at the church. In fact, Wally Hendricks from the Drug Court has told us that our meetings have been one of highest recommended meetings within the court," said Shook.
Meranda Saccomano of Four Corners came in to shed additional light on the Hope Squad as well as her work with ParentsEmpowered.org, an organization dedicated to prevention and education.
According to Saccomano and Rick Donham at Four Corners, prevention and education are more effective in many ways than any type of treatment ever will be.
Saccomano, teaches an evidence-based program, Botvin Life Skills Training, annually in Carbon District Schools. The program, which has been proven effective, focuses on social skills, peer pressure and specific ways of saying no to drugs and alcohol. The training also teaches young people about the importance of self image as they move toward adulthood.
Her work is increasingly vital as recent Student Health and Risk Prevention (SHARP) Survey data show that children as young as 12 are experimenting with heroin in Carbon District Schools.
Any interested parties can find Meranda on Facebook through the Hope Squad or via the prevention specialist at Four Corners.
While prevention and education have proven to be effective tools against the onset of use and the curbing of experimentation, they do little to help a full blown addict.
At Drug-Rehab.org, thousands of drug and alcohol treatment centers have been evaluated and information is available by calling 888-214-4192. The information line provides data such as the difference between short-term and long-term treatment, 12-step based programs vs non 12-step based and dual diagnosis vs. holistic and alternative treatment. The options are truly limitless and many of the programs are right here in Utah.
There are also several private-pay counselors willing to work with those facing addiction in the area. New Roads Treatment Center has closed its local location, but is still taking patients from the Castle Country at their Wasatch Front facility.
There are doctors providing long-term medical treatment (Suboxone) to those suffering from opiate addiction and there are professionals working toward detox programs right here in Carbon County.
According to Four Corners Administrator Karen Dolan, a general agreement within the medical community is working its way toward law to make illegal to treat a mental health issue like drug addiction differently than a physical issue.
"Drug addiction is a disease, just like diabetes," concluded Dolan. "And until we can break down the stigma which keeps people thinking addiction is a moral weakness there are going to be difficult barriers faced in communities everywhere."