Success in Springville

SPRINGVILLE — This city's reputation as the drug capital of Utah County is no longer deserved, city leaders say after reviewing the 2009 Student Health and Risk Prevention Statewide Report.

"Drug use in Springville is not what people think," said Suzy Young, coordinator of the Communities That Care program.

Communities That Care offers targeted guidance to curb such behaviors as drug use or other anti-social activities based on risks. The program, which launched in April, also offers ways to protect youths from those risks.

Springville is the first Utah County city to move forward with a plan to curb drug and alcohol use among its young people, the survey says.

And if Communities That Care and Utah County Substance Abuse officials are successful, Springville will be a much healthier community in five to 10 years. That's the goal of the county health department, Nebo School District and the city, which jointly funded the study.

The No. 1 drug problem among Springville's youths is underage drinking, but even those numbers for 2009 are down from a similar study in 2005.

Smoking, both cigarettes and marijuana, is on the rise among junior high students but down among high schoolers.

Overall, marijuana use at Springville High is below statewide levels, the survey found.

Nebo School District spokeswoman Lana Hiskey credits Springville parents rallying together and the work of Youthnet as a big part of the decline in drug use.

"They've done a lot of education in their community," Hiskey said. "I firmly believe that Springville was mislabeled (as a drug capital) because they were willing to speak out against the use of drugs, and (Springville) received more media attention."

In November 2003, Brooke and Kevin Scholz started Youthnet, consisting of a group of parents who joined together to stop the drug scourge in their town. During a drug-awareness gathering at Springville High in April 2004, one mother read the names of 13 kids who had died of drug overdoses during the previous four years. She left her son's name for last.

Earlier that year, in January, Springville police made 15 drug arrests, mostly involving heroin, now a lesser-used drug, according to the survey. During the previous 15 months, police averaged 10 drug arrests a month and issued 32 drug-related citations.

"Springville got a bad rap for a while," Springville Police Lt. Dave Caron said. "People went to court and got off drugs. … But we're still going to be aggressive and deliver a message that we won't tolerate it."