New Mexico delegation secures funding to combat state opioid epidemic

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The U.S. Department of Justice recently awarded New Mexico $1,173,835 to bolster the state’s ongoing efforts to combat opioid addiction and other forms of substance abuse, according to an announcement from the New Mexico delegation.

The grant earmarks more than a half-million dollars for the New Mexico Department of Health “to expand and improve identification of and support for individuals who survive drug overdoses; $298,594 for the city of Santa Fe to implement the Santa Fe Opioid Overdose Outreach Project; and $294,994 for the city of Albuquerque to implement the Albuquerque Peer to Peer program.”

As recently as 2014, New Mexico ranked as one of the states most deeply affected by the nation’s opioid epidemic in terms of its overdose death rate, one of the most common metrics for measuring prescription opioid and heroin abuse in areas throughout the United States.

This year, however, the state’s rank fell significantly, perhaps an indication that the state’s campaigns to equip counties with the tools to curb heroin trafficking, notably the Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) initiative, and funding for Narcan, an overdose-reversing, life-saving medication typically administered through a nasal spray, may be working.

But facing what many have referred to as one of the worst drug crises in national history, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and state Reps. Steve Pearce, Ben Ray Luján and Michelle Luján Grisham, all Democrats except for Pearce, who is a Republican, are continuing to secure federal support in fighting a drug war that is still not over.

“New Mexico families and communities know too well the devastation of the opioid and drug abuse epidemic,” Udall said, “and I am glad to have worked to secure these badly needed resources to help individuals fighting addiction. These grants will save lives by funding projects that improve our prevention, treatment and outreach efforts to help stop drug abuse before it starts and to help put New Mexicans grappling with drug addiction on the road to recovery ...”

NMDOH is partnering with Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe and Presbyterian Española Hospital in Río Arriba County to more accurately identify people who have overdosed and connect those individuals with peer support workers, who can connect them with treatment services.

The Albuquerque Peer to Peer program also seeks to connect overdose survivors with treatment.

The Santa Fe Opioid Overdose Outreach Project’s objective is to improve the quality and number of treatment programs in order to further reduce the state’s overdose rate.

“The opioid epidemic has killed too many people, ripped too many families apart and destroyed too many communities,” Grisham said. “Our law enforcement agencies and health care providers are already overburdened and stretched to their limits. People are dying because they do not have the help they need. This funding will help fight this epidemic.”

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