Supporters of a pilot program in Santa Fe that takes a different approach to dealing with those addicted to opiates, including heroin, than incarceration spoke to legislators on Tuesday. The supporters are looking for $200,000 in funding for the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, or LEAD, program which is modeled after a program in Seattle that has shown success in dealing with those addicted to opioids. A previous $200,000 funding request was vetoed by Gov. Susana Martinez. The Courts, Corrections & Justice Interim Committee hearing took place on Tuesday. Emily Kaltenbach, the state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, explained that the program “redirects people who have probable cause for arrest for low-level drug offenses” to a more treatment-based program.
The rate of young people overdosing in New Mexico is among the top in the nation and doubled in a decade according to a recent report. The report by Trust for America’s Health, reported on by Governing, found that 12.5 out of every 100,000 New Mexicans from ages 12 to 25 overdosed in 2011 to 2013. That was an increase from 6.1 out of every 100,000 from 1999 to 2003. New Mexico is one of just three states with a rate of 12 overdoses among 100,000 young people; the other two are Utah (12.1 per 100,000) and West Virginia (12.6 per 100,000). Another recent study had found that opioid overdose and abuse rates have begun to go down in New Mexico. That study was conducted from November 2012 to June 2014.
The White House rolled out a new way of dealing with opioid addiction and prescription this week with the president appearing in Charleston, West Virginia on Wednesday to discuss the efforts. The move is the latest in an ambitious set of second-term moves by the President Barack Obama. As Huffington Post reported, it downplays abstinence in favor of medication-assisted treatment, in an effort to curb the growing epidemic of opioid addiction and overdoses nationwide. New Mexico has had a massive problem with opioid overdoses. A study by the New Mexico Department of Health released this summer found that overdose deaths in New Mexico reached a new high in 2014.