A hush descended on the Council Chambers when Jennifer Weiss, president of the Heroin Awareness Committee, spoke at the Monday, Aug. 15 meeting. She's been outspoken about the city’s growing heroin problem among teenagers, which has resulted in several fatal overdoses [“The Heroin Surge,” June 2-8, 2011]. This time, she came to talk about her own 18-year-old son.
Weiss started the awareness-raising organization a little more than a year ago after her son, Cameron, became addicted to opiates. “He lost that battle Saturday morning,” she said at the meeting. With tears on the edge of her voice, she told councilors she found her son dead in his room at the family’s Northeast Heights home. “I wasn’t sure I was going to be here tonight,” she said.
Her message Monday: Heroin is everywhere. “This is not something that resides in certain areas of town or that happens to certain types of people,” she said. “This is something plaguing all of our young people in all pockets of Albuquerque.”
Weiss and more than 50 people wore black, and many of them held photos of young loved ones who'd died as a result of an overdose. Weiss said there are no inpatient treatment programs for teens with opiate addictions in the city. She said Cameron developed his addiction after being prescribed Oxycontin for football and wrestling injuries while at La Cueva High School. He attended sober-living facilities out of town and returned to Albuquerque in June.
The Council voted at a previous meeting to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to look into the Albuquerque Police Department after a rash of officer-involved shootings. Sylvia Fuentes is the mother of Len Fuentes, who was killed by police in 2010. She returned to the Council Chambers this week to express her gratitutde. “I came to thank you,” Fuentes said. “I don’t want to seem ungrateful.”
Candidates for this year's Council election had to announce their candidacy on Tuesday, Aug. 9. The even-numbered district seats will be up for grabs on Oct. 4. No one stepped up to challenge Debbie O'Malley (District 2) or Rey Garduño (District 6). Councilor Brad Winter (District 4) will face Bill Tallman and Councilor Trudy Jones (District 8) will go head-to-head with Greg Payne, who was on the Council from 1999 to 2003.
The Council also added several more polling locations for the October municipal election. Voters will be able to cast a ballot at any polling place in the city that's convenient for them on election day.