Press Release  | 02/06/2012

NM State Legislature Passes Groundbreaking Memorial Aimed at Reducing Overdose, Including Study of Medically Supervised Injection Sites

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New Mexico Leads Nation in Fatal Drug Overdoses, More than Two Times the National Average; Overdose Deaths Now Outnumber Traffic Fatalities

(Santa Fe) – Tonight, a memorial requesting a study to enhance and expand New Mexico’s harm reduction programs, including overdose prevention, sailed through the State Senate with unanimous support on both sides of the aisle.  Senate Memorial 45, sponsored by Senator R. Martinez (representing Rio Arriba, Los Alamos and Santa Fe counties), passed with a vote of 43-0 and requests the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico to conduct the study. The New Mexico Public Health Association endorsed Senate Memorial 45.

“Sadly, our drug overdose epidemic has outgrown our current harm reduction approaches,” said Emily Kaltenbach, Director of the Drug Policy Alliance’s New Mexico office. “Tonight, our State Senators realized this and did not let politics trump science.  They clearly stated their intent to go beyond the status quo and explore innovative strategies to help New Mexico’s families.”

This memorial will study emerging and evidence-based harm reduction approaches that exist in other states or countries, such as medically supervised injection facilities.  Medically supervised injection facilities are controlled health care settings where drug users can more safely use drugs under clinical supervision and receive health care, counseling, and referral to health and social services, including drug treatment.  These sites have proven to prevent overdose fatalities, increase access or referrals to addiction treatment programs, and save taxpayers by reducing costs associated with emergency room visits, crime and violence.  There are no Medically Supervised Injection Facilities operating in the United States, however, sites are operating in 27 cities around the world, including in Vancouver, British Columbia, Sydney, and Oslo.

A newly issued report on drug overdose deaths in the United States from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found New Mexico to have the highest overall overdose death rate of any state. New Mexico suffered 27 overdose deaths per 100,000 people, more than two times the national average.  Since 1991, the overdose death rate has increased 242%.

Senator Martinez has been a leader in promoting substance use treatment, education, and compassion.  In 2007, he sponsored the 911/Good Samaritan bill that was signed into law.  New Mexico was the first state in the nation to pass this law.

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.

Emily Kaltenbach 505-920-5256 or Tony Newman 646-335-5384

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