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UNM forum to tackle opioid addiction issues

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The nation’s top anti-drug official, along with local law enforcement personnel and addiction experts, will meet with the public Thursday to discuss possible solutions to opioid addiction problems in New Mexico and throughout the country.

Michael Botticelli, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, will hold a community forum Thursday at the University of New Mexico’s Domenici Center for Health Sciences Education.

His visit is part of a national plan to target opioid addiction.

Opioids – drugs that include heroin and prescription oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl – are highly effective painkillers, but they also are highly addictive, linked to increase crime and a transition to heroin.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that heroin-related overdoses nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013, but have started to drop.

President Barack Obama in October asked the Office of National Drug Control Policy to target opioid addiction. The office began a professional training program for proscribers of opioids, and it began plans to increase access to treatment.

Botticelli said on Tuesday that he plans during the community forum on Thursday to address the need to fully fund treatment facilities and increase the number of facilities in New Mexico.

“We know right now we have a big gap in the number of people seeking treatment and the number of people who get it,” Botticelli said during a conference call with Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M.

Joining him with be Richard Gallegos, chief of the Española Police Department (who oversees an area with one of the highest heroin overdose rates in the nation); Dr. Leslie Hayes, with El Centro Family Health; Joshua Trujillo, a recovery advocate; and Jennifer Weiss-Burke, a parent advocate.

Rep. Michelle Luján Grisham, D-N.M., along with Damon Martinez, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico, and Wayne Lindstrom, director of Behavioral Health Services Division for the state, will launch the forum with presentations.

Martinez was on a Journal -sponsored panel addressing opioid addiction in June.