Las Vegas, New Mexico – There will be a Community Opioid Forum at New Mexico Highlands University Jan. 19 from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
The free public forum will be in the Highlands University Student Center at 800 National Ave. Lunch will be provided and all ages are welcome.
“The primary goal of this opioid forum is to educate and bring awareness to the opioid problem in our community,” said Desiree Martínez, HU CARES prevention coordinator at Highlands. “The idea for this opioid forum came from the San Miguel County Substance Abuse Coalition.”
Martínez said more than 100 people attended the first Community Opioid Forum in April 2018 at Highlands when the focus was upon New Mexico and the nationwide opioid epidemic and prevention efforts.
“This second Community Opioid Forum will look specifically at local San Miguel and Mora county statistics as well as prevention. For example, according to the 2017 New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey about opioid use in San Miguel County for youth in grades 9 – 12, those who used painkillers without a prescription increased from 12.1 percent in 2015 to 15.4 percent in 2017,” Martínez said.
In addition, Martínez said according to a New Mexico Department of Health Epidemiology Report, San Miguel County was third in the state for drug overdose deaths in 2017.
In addition to the San Miguel County Substance Abuse Coalition and Highlands, other sponsors for the Community Opioid Forum include the San Miguel County DWI Planning Council, the Mora, San Miguel and Guadalupe Collaborative, New Mexico Children Youth and Families Department, and El Centro Family Health.
Yolanda Cruz, coordinator of the San Miguel County DWI Program, said one of the highlights of the opioid forum will be a panel presentation about a proposed plan for an Opioid Treatment Center in the tri-county area of San Miguel, Mora and Guadalupe counties.
“We’re in the early planning stages of gathering community input about the need and program development for an Opioid Treatment Center,” Cruz said. “We envision a very comprehensive center that can also address other substances, provide economic development, and work in partnership with Highlands in workforce development for social workers and other professions.”
Cruz said the goal is for the proposed Opioid Treatment Center to be a partnership between the City of Las Vegas, San Miguel County, and other local government entities.
“We would also collaborate and utilize existing services throughout the area,” Cruz said.
Other panels for the forum will include one with community leaders and one about personal testimony regarding addiction. In addition, there will be updates from other community agencies.
“The opioid forum is also working to help break the stigma of addiction,” said Monica Brown-Martínez, a juvenile probation officer with Children Youth and Families Department. “Stigma prevents families from reaching out and getting the treatment they need for their loved ones, which often leads to overdose or death.”
The 35-member San Miguel County Substance Abuse Coalition was established in 2014 after Highlands received a New Mexico Office of Substance Abuse Prevention grant. The university administers the grant.