It’s not an overstatement to say there is a local crisis of opioid addiction and deaths from drug overdoses.
New Mexico ranks No. 2 in the nation for overdose deaths per capita. And about 90 percent of them in 2014 were from heroin or medications prescribed for pain. Only West Virginia ranks higher.
For every person who is killed by opioid drugs, there are an estimated 825 opioid abusers, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That’s a big number. But they all aren’t roaming the streets looking for a fix. They can be grandmothers addicted to painkillers after medical procedures, athletes who become addicted after injuries and babies born to addicted mothers.
The problem is of such great concern that U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez and UNM Health Sciences Center Chancellor Dr. Paul B. Roth teamed up to form the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative to tackle the problem through education, prevention and law enforcement. “We cannot incarcerate our way out of this problem,” Roth told the Journal. “It’s going to take a team effort that includes education, treatment and law enforcement.”
The Journal and KANW radio are sponsoring a forum that will be broadcast live on KANW from 7 to 9 p.m. June 15. Journal editor Kent Walz and investigative reporter Mike Gallagher will moderate. Martinez, Roth and about 20 other experts from UNM, the city, Bernalillo County, federal agencies, nonprofits and health providers such as Presbyterian Healthcare Services will be on hand to discuss the issue and answer pre-submitted questions. This Sunday, June 5, is the deadline to submit questions. Email them to newsroom@abqjournal. com or submit them to the following websites: ABQJournal.com, KANW.com or www.HopeInitiativeNM.org.
The Journal will sort and distribute questions to the experts who will research and provide answers during the live broadcast.
Opioid addiction is a problem of immense concern that affects the quality of life for the entire community. Get involved to make your community a safer, healthier place to live.
This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.