Substance misuse summit to ‘focus on solutions’ for Taos County

By John Miller
jmiller@taosnews.com
Posted 6/13/19

The discussion surrounding how to enhance the quality of care for addicts in Taos County continues this month as area health care providers plan to put their heads together at a June 20 …

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Substance misuse summit to ‘focus on solutions’ for Taos County

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The discussion surrounding how to enhance the quality of care for addicts in Taos County continues this month as area health care providers plan to put their heads together at a June 20 summit.

Organized by Taos Alive and Holy Cross Medical Center, the free event is scheduled for Thursday (June 20) from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at UNM-Taos’s Bataan Hall, located at 121 Civic Plaza Drive.

Taos County residents, especially those who have been impacted by substance abuse, are encouraged to join health care professionals, social services providers, law enforcement and other community organizations as they discuss how to move the dial on a complex problem.

“We’re going to focus on solutions and collaborations, instead of focusing on the problem we already know we have,” said Andy Jones, prescription drug prevention coordinator for Taos Alive, a local antidrug coalition that helped organize a similar event in Taos in September.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States recorded 70,237 drug overdose deaths in 2017. More than half of those deaths were caused by opioids, such as heroin or prescription painkillers.

The same is true in New Mexico, where 332 people died from opioids in 2017 out of total of 493 overdose deaths, according to New Mexico’s Indicator-Based Information System. While those totals are lower than many other states, New Mexico’s relatively small state population earns it a much higher rate of drug overdose death per 100,000 residents compared to most other parts of the country.

For the past several years, vastly more people have died of drug overdoses in Río Arriba County than any other county in New Mexico, but while fewer people die of drugs in rural areas like Taos, treatment solutions are also much more scarce.

The precipitous exit of Tri-County Community Services from Taos County last year formed part of the motivation for last year’s substance abuse summit in Taos, where the providers that remain have been looking for ways to pool resources and work together.

“After Tri-County blew up, the landscape that was there before shifted,” Jones said, adding that the annual summit has helped create awareness of what resources are still available in the community and tends to generate new ideas regarding how to fill the gaps that remain.

A detox center and a form of long-term, residential treatment remain some of the more obvious needs when it comes to substance abuse. The town of Taos has been working to provide solutions to those problems again this year, but has shown little progress thus far.

Representatives from Holy Cross, Golden Willow Counseling, Rio Grande Alcoholism Treatment Program and Recovery Friendly Taos will also be hosting the event.

Other health care providers invited to the summit will set up tables around Bataan Hall with resources and personnel available to provide information to the public.

Lunch will also be provided by Taos High School’s EDU@Work Café.

To register for the event, visit taosalive.org and follow the link that reads, “Register Here for Summit.”

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