Park City superintendent unwittingly becomes ‘public voice’ of opioid crisis

PARK CITY — After two 13-year-old Treasure Mountain Junior High students died last fall after overdosing on a synthetic opioid known as pink, Park City School District Superintendent Ember Conley has become “a public voice on an issue I never wanted to address.”

Conley wrote those words in the August cover story of School Administrator, a monthly magazine delivered to public school superintendents nationwide.

The article largely describes the school district’s response to the tragedy, which included activating crisis plans to hosting community events where students, staff and community members came together to grieve, learn and move forward together.

But the article also reveals a behind-the-scenes look how the school district, in concert with the larger community, addressed the tragic loss of two young boys and its overarching hope “to make a difference for more children by coming together as a community,” Conley wrote.

In the 11 months since the boys’ deaths, Conley has been invited speak before state, regional and national audiences of educators, substance abuse prevention and treatment professionals, and university departments of psychiatry.

“The ability to share this story, while being mindful of our grieving family, friends and community, has taken on a life of its own. As educators, we are taught from our first education course to share best practices. This has become my mission — if I can save one young person’s life, I have fulfilled my purpose,” she writes.

The ordeal began on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016.

That afternoon, Conley received a text message from a parent “that possibly a student had passed away that morning at his home.”

Conley confirmed the information with the Park City Police Department, and through a series of emails and telephone calls she activated the school district’s crisis plan.

“By the time school opened on Monday morning, we had counselors on site from other schools, teachers had been informed through the emergency calling tree, and we had a list of students whom we were watching closely because of their friendship with the deceased child.

“As we used our knowledge of being a trauma-informed district, we also knew that…

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