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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 19, 2016

Albuquerque Community Advocate Participates in National Heroin and Opioid Awareness Week Events in Washington, D.C.

Mother, who Lost Son to Heroin Overdose, Participates in Awareness Week Events with National Drug Control Policy Director, U.S. Agriculture Secretary and U.S. Attorney General

Lou Duran is Affiliated with Healing Addiction in our Community (HAC) and is Regular Collaborator in HOPE Initiative’s Education and Outreach Efforts

ALBUQUERQUE –  The President of the United States, Barack Obama, has designated the week of September 19-24, 2016, Prescription Opioid and Heroin Epidemic Awareness Week, and has called for a “week of action” to raise awareness about the public health crisis caused by the growing heroin and opioid epidemic.  As part of the national awareness week, National Drug Control Policy Director Michael Botticelli and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today hosted a roundtable conversation in the White House with parents from across the country whose family members have been affected by the prescription opioid and heroin epidemic.  Lou Duran, of Albuquerque, N.M., was one of 14 parents who participated in the round table.  Following the roundtable conversation, Ms. Duran was one of two parents who joined Director Botticelli, Secretary Vilsack and U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch for a telephonic press conference to discuss the roundtable conversation.

Ms. Duran lost her 19-year-old son Michael to a heroin overdose in 2011, after a 2.5 year struggle with addiction.  Michael was a high school athlete who was prescribed opioids for a sports-related injury, got addicted, and moved on to heroin.  Following Michael’s death, Ms. Duran decided that no other mother should never suffer the loss of a child to addiction, and began her personal campaign:  “his face, my voice.”

Ms. Duran has devoted the last five years to being an advocate in the community by bringing awareness and education to youth and their families, and shedding light on the stigma and shame associated with addiction.  Her efforts have included statewide presentations in various community events, school presentations, treatment centers, community groups, seminars, conferences, as well as participating in three documentaries.

A month after losing Michael, Lou joined Healing Addiction in our Community (HAC), which provided a platform for her advocacy.  HAC is a nonprofit, grassroots group of parents and grandparents who advocate for those who struggle with addiction and the families of those who struggle.  Ms. Duran and her friend Jennifer Weiss-Burke, who lost her son Cameron to a heroin overdose in 2011 and who founded HAC and Serenity Mesa, a substance abuse treatment center for adolescents and young adults, have collaborated with the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative from the time it was launched in Jan. 2015.  Ms. Duran and Ms. Weiss-Burke were part of the inspiration that led the U.S. Attorney to approach Chancellor Paul B. Roth of the UNM Health Sciences Center about partnering up in the HOPE Initiative.

“Years before the rest of the country realized that the opioid epidemic was looming, Lou Duran, Jennifer Weiss-Burke and HAC were using their personal stories to draw attention to this critically important issue.  They understood that the first step towards defeating this devastating epidemic was to make our communities’ aware of its existence and the devastating impact it was having on all aspects of our society,” said U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez.  “The HOPE Initiative continues to be inspired by Lou, Jennifer and HAC, and we are proud to partner with them on HOPE’s education and prevention efforts.”

The HOPE Initiative is a partnership established by the UNM Health Sciences Center and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in response to the national opioid epidemic, which has had a disproportionately devastating impact on New Mexico.  Opioid addiction has taken a toll on public safety, public health and the economic viability of our communities.  Working in partnership with the DEA, the Bernalillo County Opioid Accountability Initiative, Healing Addiction in our Community (HAC), the Albuquerque Public Schools and other community stakeholders, HOPE’s principal goals are to protect our communities from the dangers associated with heroin and opioid painkillers and reducing the number of opioid related deaths in New Mexico.   The HOPE Initiative is comprised of five components:  (1) prevention and education; (2) treatment; (3) law enforcement; (4) reentry; and (5) strategic planning.  Learn more about the New Mexico HOPE Initiative at http://www.HopeInitiativeNM.org.

White House Awareness Week Press Call

Topic(s): 
Community Outreach
Component(s): 
Updated September 19, 2016