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Summit to address opioid drug abuse

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — More than 200 Bernalillo County professionals who work with opioid drug abusers will meet Thursday to find ways to save some of the hundreds of lives lost annually to addiction.

A key purpose of the daylong summit is to improve cooperation among government, medical and law enforcement personnel, said Dr. Harris Silver, co-chair of the Bernalillo County Opioid Abuse Accountability Initiative.

SILVER: Seeking increased cooperation (Morgan Petroski/Albuquerque Journal)

SILVER: Seeking increased cooperation (Morgan Petroski/Albuquerque Journal)

“The ultimate purpose is to find ways to reduce the opioid overdose rate in the county,” Silver said of the summit.

The event, called the Second Accountability Summit, has drawn a capacity crowd and registration is closed, Silver said.

Dr. Paul Roth, chancellor of the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, and Damon Martinez, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico, are among featured speakers at the event.

New Mexico has one of the highest overdose death rates in the nation. Drug overdoses killed 449 New Mexicans in 2013, down from 521 deaths in 2011.

The increased prescribing of painkillers has driven a rise in opioid addiction since the 1990s, Silver said.

Recent efforts to curb the over-prescribing of opioid drugs have reduced deaths from prescription drug overdoses since 2011, when New Mexico had the nation’s highest overdose death rate, Silver said.

But the decrease was partially offset by a slight increase in overdose deaths from heroin, which has become cheaper than black-market prescription drugs, he said.

The Bernalillo County Opioid Accountability Initiative was started in 2012 to improve the effectiveness of prevention and treatment programs, and work more closely with law enforcement.