Press Release  | 03/24/2011

Stories and Photos from Families Who Have Been Impacted by Substance Abuse Will Be Delivered to Governor Martinez

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Families Encourage Governor to Sign the Treatment-Instead-Of-Incarceration Legislation and Three Other Substance Use Treatment Bills

Santa Fe – At 2 pm this Friday, March 25th, stories and photos from women and families across New Mexico who have been impacted by substance use will be delivered to Governor Susana Martinez, at her office, to encourage her to sign a package of substance use treatment legislation aimed to treat addiction as a health issue, not a criminal one.

Senate Bill 232, Senate Bill 321, Senate Bill 354, and Senate Bill 451 dramatically improve the chances that someone struggling with addiction will be willing and able to get substance use treatment. By signing these bills the Governor has an opportunity to help decrease substance use related death- New Mexico's third leading cause of death.

"When my cousin passed from overdose it affected his whole family, but especially his young daughter," said Michael Sandoval from Albuquerque.  "During the time he was using he wanted help but there was never help available.  Every day we ask why he had to die. Treatment could have saved his life."

The Department of Health, in its 2011 State of Health in New Mexico report, states that the "overdose death rate from the combination of illicit and prescription drugs increased 150% in the past five years from 1.4 per 100,000 in 2004 to 3.6 in 2008."

Senate Bill 232 ensures that recipients of substance addiction services have timely access to bupenorphine treatment for opioid addiction.  The Department of Human Services must ensure that there is a supply of primary care providers statewide who are authorized and willing to provide office-based buprenorphine treatment. Like methodone, buprenorphine is an effective, safe medication for use in the treatment of opioid addiction. Unlike methadone, buprenorphine may be prescribed by any doctor who has received training and a waiver from the Drug Enforcement Agency, a principal advantage for New Mexico's rural residents in need of treatment.

Senate Bill 321 proposes appropriate community-based treatment, instead of incarceration, for non-violent drug possession offenders and people with drug-related probation or parole violations. Offering treatment instead of incarceration would break the cycle of addiction and enhance public safety by reducing drug-related crime while preserving jail and prison space for violent offenders.

Senate Bill 354 and Senate Bill 451 focus on the care and treatment of pregnant women struggling with addiction.  Senate Bill 354 requires health facilities that offer substance use treatment to women to offer the same treatment and give preference in admissions to pregnant women with substance use disorders.  Currently, many substance using pregnant women who seek services at treatment centers across the state are turned away because of their pregnancy.

Senate Bill 451 requires health care providers to screen pregnant and postpartum women for substance use in order to allow for the earliest possible intervention and referral to specialized treatment. This legislation requires health care providers to follow ethical and appropriate standards for care by requiring the provider to inform the pregnant woman about any planned drug testing, the nature and purpose of the testing and how results will guide management, including possible benefits and consequences of the testing.

"All too often substance using women seeking prenatal care are attempting to access care amidst disrespect and unjust criminalization of their families; we understand that women seeking care and treatment are acting out of love because they want what is the best for their baby", said Adriann Barboa, Director of Young Women United.

Prenatal care is essential to the health of any mother and her baby. Without adequate care in a safe environment many women will simply not get any care. This becomes costly and dangerous for the health of both mothers and infants.

"The Legislature has given our Governor an opportunity to be a leader in protecting mothers and their children while providing a better return on taxpayer's investments in public safety," said Emily Kaltenbach, State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance of New Mexico. "We hope the Governor will sign these bills and call on her leading advisors in health, human services,  public safety, and corrections to work together to reduce the harms of drug misuse and end New Mexico's epidemic of drug related overdoses."

The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation's leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.

Young Women United (YWU) is a community organizing project in Albuquerque, New Mexico. YWU believes the voices and leadership of young women of color carry the power to create better communities for all people.

Emily Kaltenbach at 505-920-5256 or Adriann Barboa at 505-379-1962

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