Judge Ernest Ortega has been on the bench for over a decade. He said "our jails and centers cannot continue to be holding cells for people with serious addictions and the mentally …
Judge Ernest Ortega has been on the bench for over a decade. He said "our jails and centers cannot continue to be holding cells for people with serious addictions and the mentally ill. The jail is not the proper place for people to get help."
Dan Irion, a part owner of The Taos Mesa Brewery, is hosting a concert Saturday (Sept. 29), 7 p.m., at the venue to help raise money for a detox space. The show features the music of fiery rock guitarist Eric McFadden, plus a panel of concerned citizens hoping to shed light on this important community issue.
Irion said he experienced the frustration of what to do with someone in the throes of addiction when an employee showed up to work so impaired he could not let the man go home for fear he would not make it. Irion said he realized after a few phone calls, only a few options existed to help the man and none of them were compassionate and could address the issue.
These issues were brought to a head for the community after the only drug and alcohol detoxification center in Taos closed in November 2015 and when the long-struggling Tri-County Community Services closed its doors at the end of August. The organization provided mental health counseling, substance abuse counseling and treatment.
United We Stand is a recently formed group of like-minded citizens in Taos who share the passion and commitment to change the way Taos County can assist people with addictions and mental health issues.
According to local water rights attorney Jen McCabe the panel plans to "inform the community of existing programs and resources available for addicts, families and friends; identify gaps in services that need immediate action i.e., re-opening of a detox center; educate and show to the community alternative healing options which provide proven help to our family and friends in their recovery process; (and) collaborate with the judicial system to provide alternative conditions of release for nonviolent drug users to the criminalization of drug addiction."
Longtime Taos resident Vicki McFadden, mother of the musician performing for the benefit, said the time is now to address this issue.
"People I've known, close friends and relatives, succumb to this addictive place," she said. "I've seen over the years so many in our community go from A to Z getting involved in drugs, and their lives took a turn for the worse."
McCabe said she would like to see an alternative to what is available now for first-time nonviolent offenders in our community with addiction issues. "Court ordered acupuncture, massage, nutrition and life skills training" are in order, she said. "Taos needs to take care of Taos in a synergistic collaboration of our resources."
Judge Ortega said, "There is a certain level of detox that goes on in the jail."
Medical professionals are available, he said, but resources are very limited. He stressed, "We need a detox center, and it needs to be a higher priority than it is. Nonviolent offenders need to get a proper medical detox. They need an aftercare treatment that could take up to a year. This is a safety issue for the community and the people with addictions … Law enforcement, the hospital and the courts are the front line in addressing these issues. This has been a challenge for myself and all the judges. We have the responsibility to take care of this community. It is my job."
McFadden is an acclaimed rock guitarist and is considered by many to be a virtuoso of the six-string. According to the artist's website, he has toured the world both as a solo artist and with funk legend George Clinton's Parliament/Funkadelic and been one of The Animals with rocker Eric Burdon.
Now a member of the new supergroup T.E.N., along sideThomas Pridgen (Mars Volta) and Norwood Fisher (Fishbone), McFadden has collaborated on stage or in the studio with such artists as Bo Diddley, Keb Mo', Living Colour, Joe Strummer, Les Claypool, The Meters, Bonnie Raitt, Ron Wood of the Rolling Stones, Pink and Grace Potter.
He has played in Taos many times to sold-out audiences supports positive causes all over the world and the Taos community.
Irion said he hopes this benefit concert will be the first of many fundraising efforts in the community to concentrate on the endemic addiction issues. He hopes for concrete results that provide a safe place for an addict to not only detox from an addiction issue, but provide long-term support, so the person with the addiction has a fighting chance to become a vital and productive member of our community.
Ortega stressed, "This needs to be a high priority for our community. We must address this issue now, the repercussions to our community will be dire (if we don't.)"
Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door. They can be purchased at taosmesabrewing.com. Taos Mesa Brewing is located at 20 ABC Mesa Road, off U.S. 64 west. For more information, call (575) 779-7977.
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