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The City Journals

Nearly 180 pounds of outdated, unwanted drugs gathered in Kearns

Jun 10, 2021 02:11PM ● By Carl Fauver

Hope United Community Church Pastor Josh Nielsen, Utah Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Jesse Hudson and Evidence2Success Kearns Community Coalition Chair Becky Guertler (L-R) were among the 35 volunteers who helped make National Prescription Drug Take Back Day a success in Kearns. (Carl Fauver/City Journals)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

Cupboards and medicine cabinets are emptier in Kearns now, thanks to a successful National Prescription Drug Take Back Day event, hosted outside Harmons grocery store (4872 W. 6200 South).

“We had 92 cars drive through to drop off outdated and unneeded medications, and collected 178 pounds of prescription drugs,” said Hope United Community Church Pastor Josh Nielsen. “We had 35 volunteers help out and the event was a great success.”

In addition to his Pastor duties, Nielsen is also the public relations chairman for the Evidence2Success Kearns Community Coalition, a group of volunteers working to make their community safer and healthier. 

“We held our first-every drug take back day last October and collected 71 pounds of drugs,” Nielsen said. “We are excited to see that number jump up so much this year.”

Drug Take Back Day operated for four hours and opened with a news conference.

“This is a very sad, sad situation our country is facing with prescription drug abuse,” Unified Police Kearns Precinct Chief Levi Hughes said during the media event. “This epidemic our country is facing is horrific; it’s sad; it is terrifying. This is why the public needs to clear out their cabinets of the drugs they no longer use.”

Utah House District 38 Rep. Ashlee Matthews also briefly addressed the crowd.

“(Drug abuse) prevention is needed to ensure healthy communities in our state,” she said. “Events like this are an important step to solving the public health crisis and keeping our kids safe.”

Several government agencies and volunteer groups helped make the drug take back day a success. Evidence2Success Kearns Community Coalition members teamed up with the Utah National Guard Counterdrug Task Force, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and other state and local partners. Although it was a new event in Kearns, this was actually the 20th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day.

Utah Army National Guard 2nd Lt. Jesse Hudson is with his organization’s prevention group, called the “Utah Drug Demand Reduction and Outreach Program.”

“This program was created by the National Guard nationwide; but here in Utah, this is our first drug take back day,” Hudson explained. “In addition to helping set up this drug take back site here in Kearns, we also assisted with locations in Cedar City, St. George, Richfield, Price, Brigham City, Logan, Magna, American Fork, Castle Dale, Pleasant Grove, Blanding…a total of 15 sites. We have members of our Utah Army National Guard at 10 of them.”

According to the most recent statistics, 47% of teens report it is easy to get prescription drugs from a parent’s medicine cabinet. Some 29% of Utahns report throwing their unused or expired prescription meds in the trash, while 15% say they flushed them down the toilet, potentially harming the environment.

Nationally, more than 26 million people ages 12 or older misused prescription medications in 2018. These drugs included opioids, pain meds, sedatives and stimulants. 

Among those who dropped off unneeded drugs at the take back event were Jennifer Mendoza and her 15-year-old son Evan, of Kearns.

“I heard about this on Facebook so we went through all of our cabinets,” she said. “We had medications dating back to 2018 and even 2012. I didn’t know where to go with them, so this is great.”

Evidence2Success Kearns Community Coalition Chair Becky Guertler was pleased the take back event was so successful.

“When we did this last October, our group gathered more (unwanted prescription drugs) than any other coalition and I know we are doing much better today,” Guertler said, before the official count was in. “We have a really good partnership with the Utah Army National Guard. UPD (Unified Police Department) has also been great to work with.”

Kearns Metro Township Mayor Kelly Bush summed up her appreciation of the Kearns Evidence2Success Coalition, and groups like them, during her comments to the media.

“Local coalitions are dedicated to connecting and supporting people and organizations,” Mayor Bush said. “They strive to protect our community.”