Your recent article entitled “The Heroin Surge,” [News, June 2-8] was incomplete. Addiction is a public health problem, not a criminal one. While quick to quote law enforcement officials and a lone drug counselor, the 20-year effort to address this issue by the Department of Health and its community partners went unmentioned. New Mexico is lauded for having one of the most successful harm reduction and overdose prevention programs in the country. However, our state continues to be among the national leaders in mortality and morbidity associated with drug and alcohol use. One part of the article rings true—we can’t keep up. Tragically, people continue to die from unintentional overdoses.
The article ends with a quote asserting a state of collective denial. This is ludicrous. Communities across New Mexico, including Albuquerque, have been confronting the health and social problems associated with black tar heroin for decades. Furthermore, the number of deaths from heroin overdoses is higher in Albuquerque than any other place in the state. Again, this is not a new crisis!
What’s different now? The broader Albuquerque community can no longer pretend it’s just a South Valley problem. Unfortunately, very few care about the “strung-out junkie in some rundown flophouse.” But now that heroin is impacting “all races and ages,” and a “variety of economic backgrounds,” people are paying attention.
Writer Joe Kolb responds: Because of the introduction of prescription drugs as a gateway to heroin, the problem is now penetrating a population that may not have necessarily looked at heroin as an alternative. People, particularly the young, use prescription drugs under the assumption that because they are legal, it's OK or less deleterious. When these sources dry up, heroin is the next step because of availability and low cost.
The Greater Context of Medicaid Cuts
[Re: Miss Diagnosis, “The Miracle of Treatment,” June 2-8] Unfortunately, I must say that the closing of this much-needed program is only a reflection of the greater political juggernaut at hand. Since April, the plan to cut Medicare and Medicaid in order to deal with the huge deficit is still much debated but also frighteningly possible. Let's not even consider one's political affiliation but consider the sad prospect of a country that is even willing to toy with the idea of cutting funding to much-needed programs. The current argument is cutting frivolous spending in certain Medicare/Medicaid programs.
However, Ms. Doyle pointed out an important aspect. It is difficult to measure outcome measures on programs that provide primary and secondary prevention. How does a program prove its relevance when it is intended to improve the quality of life of children born to substance-abusing mothers? Who is willing to pay for a prospective longitudinal study of the effects of such programs on youth at risk? How does such a program prove that its interventions helped a woman win the battle of addiction? Many could argue that there are multiple confounding variables and have reason to cut these programs. It is a sad day indeed when we find more reason to cut these programs, but no reason is needed to continue to wage war. Our society values who wins in “Dancing With the Stars” more than finding ways to develop collective efforts in helping families be healthy and productive. Sad indeed ...
Energy conservation—now or in the future? That’s the puzzle the N.M. Construction Industries Commission is considering at its meeting on Friday, June 10. Governor Martinez’s new appointees to the commission will vote on a proposal to roll back the energy conservation code adopted last year [News, “State Looks to Reverse Green Building Codes,” May 19-25]. Why? Some builders are whining that it hurts their business.
I sympathize with anyone whose business is hurting in this economy, but I think it’s time for some dinosaurs to lift their heads out of the sand. Everyone is hurting, and especially families whose utility bills are rising year after year.
While PNM seeks a rate increase, some homebuilders (not all of them) want to put up shoddy construction with the minimum energy efficiency measures possible. No! No! No!
Let them know how you feel: (505) 476-4686. Or attend the meeting on June 10 at 10:30 a.m. at 5200 Oakland NE.
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