Proposed UNM Methadone Clinic Seeks New Location

For several years now, the state has topped the country in alcohol and drug induced deaths. However, a recent plan that would have made treatment more accessible in Albuquerque was nixed because of community opposition.

23-year-old Angelica Gonzales has struggled with heroin addiction for several years. The single mother enrolled in the University of New Mexico Addiction and Substance Abuse Program’s methadone clinic over a year ago. Gonzales says she decided to get help with her addiction because having to hustle everyday to get high was interfering with her ability to live a typical life.

“It’s difficult, it’s hard for people who have children or anything to take care of their kids, you know, or do any ordinary things, this clinic help us to live a normal life

Micaela Cadena, campaign and policy coordinator for Young Women United, attended last month’s meeting. She says she was confused by the community’s reaction toward the project that would’ve moved the clinic from where it’s at near Yale and Gibson to the Central and San Mateo area.

“They were one asserting how important access to treatment in Albuquerque were but they were pretty clearly saying that while they believe in access to services they didn’t want it anywhere in their backyard, near their homes or near their business.”

Cadena says those who opposed the project have it all wrong and the goal should be to bring people closer to support and resources instead of pushing them away.

“It’s not only about the health and well being of these people struggling with addiction; it’s about the overall health of our communities. The viabilities of our communities and what we do as New Mexico to keep all of our families strong.”

Dave Staehlin is a businessman and property owner near the proposed site. He knows the cost of addiction better than most. Earlier this year, he lost his 25-year-old grandson to a heroin overdose. He says he opposed the project because the Central and San Mateo area is over-run with problem--ranging from public intoxication to drug dealing. And adds that a new treatment facility would present more problems for everyone involved, especially those in the early stages of recovery.

“I wouldn’t want my grandson before he OD’d--I wouldn’t want him walking in here, in this area to go to a methadone clinic, because I know how susceptible he was to addiction.  They are putting the hens in fox houses.”   

Staehlin says the neighborhood is headed in the right direction and he’s worried the clinic would throw it off course.

“Now I do know that it is starting to clean up a little and we got it going that way we want to keep it going that way.”

But Angelica Gonzales is quick to point out that she isn’t the only one benefitting from the clinic’s services.

“When they don’t give it to us and the buses don’t run for us to get there, we can’t get our medication and we end up taking it out on our children or anybody else.”

A UNM spokesman says it plans to build the new center on a site that is easy to reach by bus and doesn’t expect opposition to the previous site to slow down the project.