Needle Exchange Program: Final Opinion Given by Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk

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As the final instillation of the five-part series exploring the needle exchange program making its way to Castle Country, Emery County Sheriff Greg Funk discusses the controversial subject and explains exactly why he believes that it should not come to the area.

Funk believes that the needle exchange program is a slippery slope, one that he is not in favor of in condoning. Going into the issue with the idea of taking care of the drug problem to stop the spread of it is one thing. However, providing a means to continue to use is something that Funk disagrees with.

“My concern is that once you crack open that door, pretty soon we’ll have to provide medical grade heroin in the name of harm reduction,” Funk stated.

Continuing with his stance, Funk stated that he is concerned that we as a community are getting too liberal in our views for the area. For nearly four years, he worked in the task force. At that time, he had many assignments, including working undercover. In Funk’s experience, users are not thinking clear and are only interested about getting that next high. He stated that he can almost guarantee that the thought of having a clean needle is going to be the farthest from their mind when they need a fix.

Funk then stated that he personally believes that the system has swung too far to the other side and needed consequences for the drug problem are not being issued. Although local legislation, such as Senator David Hinkins, did adamantly vote against such leniency, it is still being practiced. Funk is concerned that the general public does not realize how lenient certain laws have become. The possession of most drugs are as small as a misdemeanor charge now, slightly worse than receiving a speeding ticket.

Prevention is the key method, Funk stressed. He believes that any money would be much better spent on prevention than going down the road with the needle exchange. Nobody is going to be able to help users until they want to help themselves, Funk explained. From his experience and viewpoint, an addict has to hit rock-bottom before they want help. Rock-bottom usually occurs, stated Funk, when incarcerated. The users are then able to be built up once they are willing to accept help.

The distribution of all that is included in the kit that comes through the needle exchange program is considered unlawful under the Utah State Paraphernalia Act (58-37a-5). Sheriff Funk stated that he will arrest the members of the Harm Reduction Coalition for attempting to distribute these in the community.

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