The Northern Gila County Community Drug Task Force held its first drug awareness event, Rock the Park, on Aug. 10.

The event, held in Green Valley Park, offered drug education awareness, fun activities, free hot dogs (provided by LovEm’s Bikery), a bounce house, games and face painting.

The Gila County Sheriff’s Office and Payson Police Department gave K-9 demonstrations, and there were school supplies available.

Payson Town Council members Janell Sterner (Task Force chair), Jim Ferris, and Payson Mayor Tom Morrissey attended, as did Payson’s new Chief of Police Ronald Tischer, to name a few.

Vendors included Payson NAMI, LovEm’s Bikery, Community Bridges, Payson Premier Dental, Payson Public Library, U of A Cooperative Extension First Smile Dental/Vision, Arizona Youth Partnership, Jana Jackson 4 Kids, Imagination Library, Southwest Behavioral Health, Outlaw Dirty Money and Davis King Realty “I pledge to be drug free.”

Sponsors of the event included the Gila County Health Department, Gila County Sheriff K-9 Unit, Payson Police K-9 Unit, Payson Fire Department, Carquest, Miller Auto, New Beginnings, Payson General Rentals, PHI Helicopter, Army National Guard, Walmart, Bashas’ and Safeway.

The mission of the Northern Gila County Community Drug Task Force is to “first raise awareness, educate and engage the community in understanding the nature and complexity of drug use and abuse within northern Gila County; to work as an adjunct to civil authorities, emergency first responders, health care professionals, schools and other civic organizations in their efforts to deal with the causes and consequences of legal and illegal use and misuse of controlled substances in the northern Gila County area.”

Sterner introduced Tischer who spoke to the 200 attendees. Morrissey and Ferris also spoke, thanking Sterner for her role in the task force.

In a 2017 Centers for Disease Control report, Gila County has the third of fourth highest opioid prescribing rate at 88 per 100 people, compared to Arizona rate of 61.2 per 100. Both are higher than the reported national rate of 58.7 per 100 people.

And that’s just prescription drugs. Rim Country also struggles with illegal drug use including heroin, methamphetamines, and other street drugs.

Gila County is the first county in the state of Arizona to offer Naloxone Rescue Kits to anyone in Globe or Payson concerned about potential opioid drug overdose. This program is free and anonymous. In Payson, pick up a kit at the county health offices across from the post office.

The Gila County Public Health Department and Sonoran Prevention Works help fund the program.

Naloxone is a medication that offers temporary, rapid reverse of opioid overdose complications. It is an opioid antagonist (it binds to opioid receptors) and can restore normal breathing to a person in respiratory arrest (a life-threatening effect of opioid overdose.)

Naloxone is marketed as Narcan, a nasal spray and Evzio, an auto-injector. The Evzio dispenser contains electronic voice instructions to guide the administrator through each step of the injection.

Neither of these drugs are a substitute for emergency treatment, they buy the overdose victim time to survive between the 911 call and arrival of professional help.

Opioids were only one of the drug issues addressed at the event, but they are part of a growing problem because of abuse of prescription opioids like Oxycodone and illegal drugs like heroin.

The task force plans to provide the following services and community help:

• Assist the community with age-appropriate drug

prevention educational workshops.

• Provide up-to-date drug statistic information and


• Recommend local or state solutions and resources for


• Collaborate with local and county law enforcement

agencies to develop successful approaches to unlawful

drug activities.

• Identify local drug dealings and forward them to the

Gila County Narcotics Drug Task Force.

For more information on GCCDTF, visit

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