ALBUQUERQUE – Following President Obama’s announcement of a “week of action” to raise awareness about the public health crisis caused by the growing heroin and opioid epidemic, U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch has designated the week of September 18, 2016, as National Heroin and Opioid Awareness Week. U.S. Attorneys throughout the country are sponsoring events geared towards increasing awareness and developing solutions to the growing epidemic of heroin and opioid abuse in our country during the awareness week.
The importance of this national awareness effort is underscored by devastating impact of the heroin and opioid epidemic. Nationwide heroin overdoses have increased 244 percent between 2007 and 2013. Many of the new heroin users are youths, with an average age of 24 ½ years old for first-time users. Nationwide, on an average day, 78 people will die from an opioid-related overdose.
In New Mexico, the New Mexico Heroin and Opioid Prevention and Education (HOPE) Initiative, a partnership between the UNM Health Sciences Center and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, will host a series of education events during National Heroin and Opioid Awareness Week. Bruce G. Ohr, Associate Deputy Attorney General and Director of DOJ’s Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Program, will participate in the HOPE Initiative’s events.
“The Justice Department wants to highlight the incredible work that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and its HOPE partners are doing to combat the heroin and opioid epidemic in New Mexico,” said Associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce G. Ohr. “The hardest-hit communities in New Mexico, including many tribal communities, are benefitting from the HOPE initiative’s comprehensive approach, which looks beyond enforcement to incorporate prevention and treatment. HOPE is a model for communities across the nation suffering from this deadly epidemic.”
The HOPE Initiative’s events will include discussions with tribal leaders, high school students and student athletes, and law enforcement officials, to offer solutions and help raise awareness. There will also be discussions with local law enforcement agencies and medical professionals about new treatment options and delivery methods for overdose medications such as Naloxone. Discussion details from the events will be posted to the NM HOPE Initiative website and available to the public at www.hopeinitiativenm.org.
“We are committed to improving the health and well-being of all New Mexicans,” said Paul B. Roth, MD, MS, Chancellor for Health Sciences at the University of New Mexico. “This partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office presents us with an extraordinary opportunity to help reduce opioid overdose deaths and help alleviate the awful personal and social costs that accompany drug dependency.”
“In 2014, New Mexico had the second-highest per capita overdose death rate in the country. Our community has acknowledged that we are in an epidemic, and we are coming together to take control of our future and our destiny,” said U.S. Attorney Damon P. Martinez for the District of New Mexico. “Through the HOPE Initiative, we are pursuing a comprehensive strategy to deal with, and defeat, this epidemic, and we will highlight our efforts in the coming week.”
The HOPE Initiative was launched in January 2015 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.