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What can be done to tackle drug problem in city, state?

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Journal reached out to several local leaders in politics, law enforcement and public health to ask them: What one key thing do you think could be done to tackle the drug problem in Albuquerque and in New Mexico? Here are statements from those who responded:

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham: “More than 2,000 New Mexicans have died of drug overdoses in the past five years. That’s more than one overdose death a day. As a society, those numbers no longer shock, but this heartbreaking series makes it impossible to look away. It puts a human face on an intractable epidemic and the people in its grips, and it reinforces the importance of programs like needle exchanges, drug courts, prescription monitoring and access to Naloxone to reverse overdoses. We need to keep exploring and advocating for new and innovative programs and mechanisms of resource deployment. It’s also worth reminding New Mexicans of our ‘good Samaritan’ law allowing immunity for anyone calling 911 seeking help for an overdose.”

Attorney General Hector Balderas: “Our families have lost generations to the tragedies of addiction, and it is time to respond to this epidemic with a national emergency approach and continue the fight against drug companies and bad actors who contributed to the destruction of our ravaged communities.”

 

 

Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel: “New Mexico continues to be confronted by a substance use crisis, with alcohol as the central, longest-running problem and methamphetamine emerging as the ‘new’ problem. New Mexico has implemented creative approaches to address opioid use and overdose — now we must do the same for alcohol and methamphetamine.”

Dr. Paul Roth, Chancellor of UNM Health Sciences Center: “The substance abuse issues in our communities are multifaceted so any approach to addressing the situation must be as well. We are working on partnerships to address homelessness, we have researchers leading the way with innovative ideas to diminish the abuse of opioids, we are ramping up behavioral health services. All of these things, and others I haven’t mentioned, play a role. The key for me is this, we must invest in solutions, prevention and care for those struggling with substance abuse. We must stop the stigma against substance abuse users or those with mental health conditions and start focusing on how to address their needs in a holistic approach.”

Mayor Tim Keller: “Addiction is the root cause behind every major challenge in our community from crime to homelessness. It is critical that we rebuild the behavioral health system that was dismantled years ago. We also need a place where anyone can go to receive help, at any time of day. We need a place for first responders to take people struggling with substance abuse that isn’t jail or the emergency room.”

APD Police Chief Michael Geier: “Drug and alcohol addiction fuels a lot of the property crime our officers see every day in the city. We will continue to crack down on traffickers who supply drugs. But the most effective crime strategy for addiction is to treat it as a public health crisis, which will have a lasting impact on property crime.”

 

 

BCSO Sheriff Manuel Gonzales: “BCSO will continue to attack Albuquerque’s horrific crime crisis and offer our Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program to those struggling in addiction that want help. We must win this battle to keep our children, families and businesses safe.”

 

District Attorney Raúl Torrez: “We must address the root causes of addiction if we want to have any hope of building a safer community and recognize that enforcement alone is not the answer. It is long past time to make critical investments in reducing early childhood trauma which often drives drug use in adolescence and do the hard work of rebuilding our community one family at a time. This is a problem that affects us all but we won’t begin to solve it unless we invest as much in prevention and treatment as we do enforcement.”

Chief Public Defender Bennett Baur: “We can’t police and prosecute our way out of this problem. We can hold people accountable for their actions and at the same time offer them an effective way to work their way out of addiction. We also must address the poverty and trauma that fuel addiction.”

 

 

 

Bernalillo County Commissioner Maggie Hart Stebbins: “Any effective response to drug abuse and crime in our state will demand that New Mexico’s policymakers and healthcare organizations dedicate infinitely more resources in two key areas: preventing and responding to childhood traumas that lead to mental illness and substance use disorders, and providing immediate access to evidence-based addiction treatment services. Investments in trauma-informed care and low-barrier access to treatment can change the course of this epidemic.”

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