More people in New Mexico die from a drug overdose than from a car accident; teens in New Mexico are twice as likely to try heroin as teens in other states; and at least one of every 10 youths in New Mexico admits to using prescription opiates to get high, according to the Albuquerque-based nonprofit, Healing Addiction in our Community.
Part of the problem has been a shortage of inpatient and outpatient treatment programs, particularly for people under age 18, said Jennifer Weiss-Burke, executive director of HAC.
When young people do get treatment, it’s usually for a short commitment of less than 30 days. “So it’s not long enough and doesn’t provide the supportive wraparound services needed for those struggling with addiction to get back on their feet,” she said.
The dynamics of that are about to change.
Bernalillo County on Friday announced it has purchased an 8-acre site in the South Valley for $732,646 for use as a residential transitional living facility to help young people recover from drug addiction and rebuild their lives.
The money came from discretionary capital outlay funds allocated over two years from a number of state representatives and senators of both parties, Weiss-Burke said.
Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins said the county was partnering with HAC, which will operate the transitional housing programs and will lease the facility from the county at a price yet to be set. The facility should be open by the end of the year.
Hart Stebbins, who has led the fight against substance abuse in Bernalillo County, said she was confident the partnership “will provide new opportunities for young people and families to heal and recover.”
The property at 3701 Condershire SW, is the former Hogares facility. It provided mental health evaluation and treatment for children and youth struggling with behavioral, mental health and substance abuse problems.
The property has seven buildings on it, though only one will be used initially until funds are available to renovate others, said Katrina Hotrum, director of substance abuse programs for Bernalillo County.
Though it will have space for 32 beds, it will open with 14, and a focus on males age 14-21. A second phase will open up the remainder of bed space to males and females.
People who come to the facility will have been treated elsewhere, will no longer be using drugs, and will have a stable mental health and behavioral profile, Hotrum said.
During their average 6-month stay, they will take sobriety, health and wellness classes, get individual and family therapy, learn time management, money management and other life skills, and get opportunities to continue their education or get a job.
Weiss-Burke estimated the initial yearly operating cost of the program at about $440,000, with another $200,000 as Phase 2 kicks in. Much of the operational costs will come from grants from the City of Albuquerque, the United Way and fundraisers, she said.
Friday’s announcement was timed to highlight International Overdose Awareness Day on Sunday. For more information on fundraising events, go to healingaddictionnm.org.