The opioid epidemic is a national crisis, and in Northern New Mexico it’s a problem that’s been around for decades.
For the latest in our Voices Behind the Vote series, KUNM visited the home of an addiction counselor in Rio Arriba County to hear about her thoughts on substance abuse and the presidential race.
"The biggest issue I've seen is lack of resources, lack of treatment, lack of everything," said Bernadette Gutierrez, who works as an addiction counselor and advocate at Inside Out Recovery in Española. "There's a huge problem. There's an epidemic in this valley, in the state, probably nationwide. But what I can say is, here in this area it's being totally ignored."
Gutierrez said there is high demand for things like detox and treatment programs, but the funding for those programs is so thin in Rio Arriba County that people trying to get sober often can't get help.
She said when people make the decision to try and get help for their addiction, it's crucial to get them into treatment right away.
"They said, 'OK let's do it,' they come in, and then we can't get them the resources or the services they need and they get very discouraged. Who knows how long it will be before they make that decision to do it again."
Gutierrez said she's so frustrated with the lack of discussion about the drug epidemic in the presidential race that she doesn't know who to vote for. No matter who she chooses, she said, the problem seems like it's just going to continue.
"There's a lot of people here who are concerned. Everybody's got a family member here that's suffering from addiction, and they're not hearing anything" from the candidates.
KUNM's Public Health New Mexico project is funded by the WK Kellogg Foundation, the Con Alma Health Foundation and the McCune Charitable Foundation. Find out more at publichealthnm.org.