KUNM

addiction

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Attorneys general across the country are claiming that a 2016 law is preventing the Drug Enforcement Agency from stopping the overprescribing of opioid painkillers. This week New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas signed on to a letter with 44 other AG’s calling on Congress to repeal the “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act,” saying the law has handcuffed law enforcement from addressing the epidemic. 

Ed Williams

Let’s Talk New Mexico 10/5 8a: The opioid epidemic—and what to do about it—has become a national conversation in recent years. Congress has passed bills trying to help, President Trump appointed a task force to outline solutions to the epidemic, and the New Mexico legislature has passed several bills aimed at reducing the death toll from overdoses.

But have those efforts gotten help to the people that need it? What do New Mexico’s communities need to win their fight with opioid addiction?

Ed Williams / Public Health New Mexico

The opioid epidemic has racked up enormous costs for local governments in New Mexico, as cities and counties struggle to pay for medical care, law enforcement and treatment services for people dealing with addiction.

In recent years a growing number of local governments have been taking opioid manufacturers and distributors to court over those costs—including Mora County northeast of Santa Fe. 

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Santa Fe County is holding a special election Tuesday to decide whether to raise the gross receipts tax to fund behavioral health services.

If voters approve the measure, taxes in the county will go up one sixteenth of one percent. Officials estimate that will add up to about $2 million a year, which will go to pay for behavioral health services as well as more public safety positions.

Ed Williams / KUNM/Public Health New Mexico

Bernalillo County is joining a growing number of state and local governments in taking drug companies to court over the opioid epidemic. The county's decision to sue the drug companies comes just a week after Mora County filed its own suit in district court. 

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A 2016 federal sting operation in Albuquerque that targeted largely communities of color is raising more questions about the tactics officers used and how effective they were.  

Jeff Proctor broke the ATF sting story for New Mexico In Depth and the Santa Fe Reporter. He spoke with KUNM’s Elaine Baumgartel about what he learned when he followed up with Jennifer Padilla, one of the women who was arrested in the sting.

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More than 50,000 people in the U.S. died because of an opioid overdose last year, which is an all-time high.

The opioid epidemic was the subject of Congress’s Joint Economic Committee hearing last week. New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich, a Democrat, is the ranking member of that committee. He spoke with KUNM about the hearing and the prospects for behavioral health in the Republican health care replacement bill. 

Recovery Courts For Teens

Jun 13, 2017
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Young people who end up in the court system for substance abuse are at a crucial point in their lives. In many New Mexico communities, recovery courts provide resources for minors to address substance abuse and take advantage of mental health services. One goal is to address drug use before a minor ends up in the adult court system.

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KUNM Call In Show 5/18 8a. Many New Mexicans are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. When they break the law for driving under the influence or committing a crime related to their addiction, should they go to jail or into treatment? 

Ed Williams

New Mexico will receive $4.8 million in federal dollars for opioid treatment and prevention this year. The money comes from the 21st Century Cures Act, a bill signed by President Obama in December that gives states new funding to fight the opioid epidemic. 

Courtesy Project ECHO

In many parts of the world, including rural New Mexico, it's difficult for patients to access specialists in health care. But instead of moving more providers to those areas, what if doctors and other health professionals who already work in those communities could gain the knowledge and expertise they need to help their patients? That's the idea behind Project Extension for Community Healthcare Outcome, or Project ECHO. It launched in 2003 at the University of New Mexico to respond to the growing Hepatitis C crisis around New Mexico.

Ed Williams

When someone addicted to heroin or prescription wants to quit, the first step is to find a detox center where they can safely go through withdrawals from the drug, but people in northern New Mexico who are trying to get help often can’t find it.

Ed Williams / KUNM

When a public health crisis gets out of control, it can overwhelm law enforcement agencies. That’s what’s happened with the Española Police Department as it deals with a decades-old opioid epidemic and all the crime that goes with it. 

KUNM Special 8/3 8a: KUNM has been investigating the impacts of heroin addiction on children and families in Rio Arriba County, N.M. The region's had one of the country’s highest overdose rates for decades. Ed Williams' reporting follows the lives of families and community health leaders, providing an intimate view of the opioid epidemic from the perspective of the people who have been living through it for generations.

Ed Williams/KUNM

Research shows early childhood education is one of the most effective ways to prevent drug use later in life. That’s especially important in Rio Arriba County, where an opioid epidemic has been raging for decades. 

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Española  has had one of the highest rates of heroin addiction in the country for decades. It’s a public health crisis that can create particular challenges for pregnant moms and the doctors that treat them.  

Ed Williams

Rio Arriba County has the country’s highest rate of opioid overdose. That’s partly because a severe shortage of funding for detox and recovery programs has made it almost impossible for people to get life-saving help with their addictions.

Now Congress has passed a broad health measure that includes $1 billion for addiction treatment and prevention services.

KUNM spoke with Senator Martin Heinrich, who voted for the 21st Century Cures Act this week. 

New Mexico Department of Health

Lawmakers are trying to stop the planned closure of a youth detox center in Albuquerque. The Turquoise Lodge detox service was funded by the state three years ago, but now the Department of Health says not enough kids are using it and the money needs to be redirected to services for adults.

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Congress is considering legislation that will make it easier to treat people for opioid addiction. And doctors in Rio Arriba County—an area hard-hit by drug addiction—are hoping the new laws will provide relief to patients there.

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New Mexico’s Democratic congressional delegation is calling for a federal investigation into the shakeup of the state’s behavioral health system.

Ed Williams

New Mexico’s first long-term addiction recovery center tailored specifically to teenagers and young adults, Serenity Mesa, opened its doors this week.

Up until now, youth in the state who are struggling with addiction could go to detox, short-term rehab, or jail, but then they get released without continuing support. Serenity Mesa founder Jen Weiss says that’s led to a lot of relapses.

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A drug called naloxone reversed more than 700 overdoses in New Mexico last year. But hurdles remain for making the drug more widely available. 

Naloxone—brand name Narcan—can be prescribed by pharmacists, not just doctors, and Medicaid covers the cost. In 2014, those big policy changes resulted in a spike of overdose reversals. 

Ed Williams-KUNM

KUNM Public Health Reporter Ed Williams met with Julie Martinez in the courtyard of Holy Cross Hospital in Taos. Martinez manages the hospital’s substance abuse prevention program and works on drug issues with local youth for the non-profit Taos Alive.

Martinez wouldn’t say who she was voting for because of her work. She did explain that the entrenched problems of addiction and substance abuse in her community are shaping her views of candidates this year.

Ed Williams-KUNM

Terry Trujillo’s family has been facing an ordeal that would be familiar to a surprising number of Americans. Holding back tears, she remembers the moment she had to explain to her adopted nephew that his severe learning disabilities, memory problems and behavior issues were the result of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

“The little boy would say ‘Well what’s that, what do you mean?’ And it’s hard to sit there and tell a child it means that your mother drank alcohol while you were in her stomach, and to see their face. Because they know it’s wrong,” Trujillo said.

Judge Rules Health Audit Can Remain Secret

Aug 14, 2014
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A state agency can continue to keep secret most of an audit it used last year to suspend funding for 15 health organizations and spark criminal investigations into potential Medicaid fraud, a judge ruled Thursday.

The ruling marks the second time in nine months that Douglas R. Driggers, a district judge in Doña Ana County, has agreed with the state’s Human Services Department (HSD) and Attorney General’s Office (AG) that protecting an ongoing criminal investigation trumps the public’s right to information.