MANTI— Sanpete County has launched an offensive against opioid abuse by hiring a community health worker to work with inmates in the county jail, with schools and with the public at large.
Cheryl Swapp of Fairview was hired in June and started working at the Sanpete County Sheriff ’s Complex in Manti.
In September 2021, Intermountain Health Care received a $1 million grant from the U.S. Office of Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for opioid abuse treatment and prevention. IHC made a subaward of $279,000 to the Central Utah Community Opioid Response Effort Consortium.
Members of the consortium include the Central Utah Counseling Center, Central Utah Public Health Department, Sanpete Sheriff ’s Office, Wayne County Community Health, school districts in Millard, Sevier and Sanpete counties, and 12 healthcare providers in the Six-County Area. The consortium elected to base the grant program, and Swapp, in the Sanpete County Sheriff ’s Office.
Beverly Thomas, grants coordinator for the Sheriff ’s Office, said the consortium partners are developing their program from scratch, because a community approach to prevention and treatment of opioid abuse is brand new.
One thing Swapp is already involved with is helping inmates who have had drug problems find resources to succeed once they get out of jail and back into real world situations.
“I love working with the best of the best at the Sheriff ’s Office,” she said. “We are pretty lucky to have the sheriff deputies we do working and protecting our communities.”
While she loves the positive side of work, there are disappointments. She said having an inmate she has tried to help recommit the same crime, mainly drug-related, and end up back in jail is something that is hard to see for her.
“I want them all to succeed and be great citizens. Also, trying to find them the resources they need when you know certain resources don’t exist in Sanpete County are hard things to deal with,” she said.
Swapp said the county lacks in some areas, but she is working with great people and programs to bring those resources here.
Something that she sees as a problem with drugs in Sanpete, especially opioids, is lack of knowledge. She said when people think of opioids, they think of heroin and Fentanyl. Indeed, there is a problem with such “street” drugs.
“We also have a problem with people taking more than they should of a pain prescription pre- scribed by a doctor, or sharing the pain meds with someone else,” Swapp said.
Swapp is working with the school resource officers in the county to educate early and get programs and education in the schools. She will be going into the schools during their drug-free weeks with activities to help educate kids about what an opioid is as well as common things kids are doing to get “high.”
“Education is key,” she said. “I feel with what we have planned for the future, we can hopefully make a difference in the county.”
Her office is also planning some community events to communicate the knowledge that there is help and assistance for everyone.
Swapp said it takes a community to help stop the issues that her office is dealing with.
“Learn where the drugs are coming from,” she said.
Another thing she wants people to learn is the signs and symptoms of drug use. She wants to encourage everyone to be open and understanding with your children, your parents, your spouse, any- one. Don’t be afraid, she said, to talk about drugs and alcohol and be accepting of each other.
“Many people are trying to change and are looking to be accepted in the community. We need to be more accepting and willing to help each other, and be prepared and know what to do if you see someone suffering from an overdose,” Swapp said.
She said she sees all age groups facing drug-related problems. “Nobody is immune to it,” she said. She has seen people from extremely wealthy to the homeless, from 12 years old to great-grandparents, every race, every ethnicity.
“Every background you can think of has and could face these problems,” she said.
Besides Swapp’s job, the county is using other grant money to send Tonia Castra, Residential Substance Abuse Treatment (RSAT) director, and Jared Hill,
Sanpete County Jail clinical therapist, to training in Pennsylvania to a training on medication-assisted treatment, where addicts get prescribed drugs that satisfy their cravings for drugs without impeding their functioning.
Swapp has created a Face- book page to share helpful information and events. Follow it at Central Utah Community Opioid Response Effort-CORE.