Substance abuse forum to occur Sept. 21


A coalition of local community health providers is organizing a public forum to discuss the effects of substance abuse in Taos County on Thursday (Sept. 21) at 5:30 p.m. in the Kachina Lodge.

Headlined as “Strengthening Families and Communities,” the event aims to spur a productive conversation surrounding substance abuse with input from local residents and families during the month of September, designated as “National Recovery Month” by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The national month of observance began in 1989 to advocate for substance abuse and mental health services. The program has since been embraced by more than 200 federal, state and local agencies and nonprofits active in substance abuse prevention and treatment.

This month’s gathering in Taos is being sponsored by five local agencies and two state agencies, including Taos Alive Coalition, Golden Willow Counseling, Río Grande Alcoholism Treatment Program, Holy Cross Hospital, New Mexico Office of Peer Recovery and Engagement and New Mexico Department of Human Services Behavioral Health Services Division.

Those sponsors are inviting locals to share their experiences with substance abuse to launch a discussion to illustrate the possibility of recovery and shed further light on the issue of addiction here in New Mexico and locally in Taos County.

Eight of the 10 leading causes of death in New Mexico are related to substance abuse, according to the New Mexico Department of Health. Substance abuse can cause the development of life-threatening disorders, such as malignant neoplasms, heart disease, unintentional injury, respiratory disease, cerebrovascular diseases, diabetes, liver disease, cancer, suicidal ideologies and respiratory failure due to overdose.

For three decades, New Mexico has ranked among the states with the highest number of alcohol-related deaths in the country.

In Taos County, nine out of every 100,000 residents died in car accidents in which alcohol was a contributing or leading factor from 2011 to 2015. Eighty-nine out of every 100,000 suffered from life-threatening chronic liver disease during the same period.

In 2015, New Mexico recorded the eighth-highest total drug overdose death rate in the nation, with 47 percent caused by prescription opioids and 37 percent caused by heroin. Between 2011 and 2015, 51 Taos County residents died due to drug overdose, a rate of 32.5 deaths per 100,000 people, the seventh-highest overdose death rate in the state, outpacing 27 other counties in New Mexico.

The sponsors of this month’s event are looking to show residents that while more resources are needed to combat addiction in Taos County, there are service providers working together to provide support.

The event is free. Food and beverages will be provided.