Albuquerque, New Mexico, has made efforts in recent months to fight the opioid epidemic by increasing access to the overdose-reversal medication naloxone.
On June 14, the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to equip public high schools in the city with naloxone. The motion passed despite the district having no history of an opioid overdose occurring in its schools.
“Unlike alcohol or other drugs, you have a short window to respond to an opioid overdose,” Vicki Price, director of counseling for Albuquerque Public Schools, told the Albuquerque Journal. “This is just a precaution that could save a life.”
School nurses will learn to properly administer the antidote, which binds to opioid receptors in the brain to block the effects of opioids such as heroin, Percocet and Lortab. Naloxone can be sprayed into the nose or injected into muscle tissue.
Cities across the United States have been stocking public schools with the medication. Schools in Akron, Ohio, and Frederick County, Maryland, will have access to naloxone this year. Rio Rancho, New Mexico, located about 17 miles north of Albuquerque, also will soon begin supplying the drug to middle and high schools.
In December 2016, the Albuquerque City Council voted unanimously to require adding Narcan, a brand name of naloxone, to first-aid kits in city buildings such as community centers and public libraries. An employee of each public facility was trained to use the medication.
Damon Martinez, former U.S. attorney for the District of New Mexico, supported the decision. He said that opioid abuse affects people of all backgrounds, from surgery patients to young athletes dealing with injury.
“Every life is sacred, and each life is worth saving,” he told the Albuquerque Journal.
Drug overdoses have greatly affected New Mexico, and opioid overdose deaths have massively increased in the past 10 years. According to the New Mexico Department of Health, the state’s death rate for illicit drug overdoses has ranked among the highest in the United States over the last two decades.
To curb this trend, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez on April 6 signed legislation that requires local and state law enforcement officials to carry naloxone. New Mexico was the first U.S. state to pass such a law.
“Signing this bill is an important step to fight the scourge of drug abuse and overdose fatalities,” Martinez said during a press conference.
Albuquerque became the seventh city to participate in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 360 Strategy, a multidimensional approach to fighting opioid abuse and crimes related to drug trafficking.
To accomplish this task, the initiative incorporates three components that allow program representatives in Albuquerque and Bernalillo County to:
“This comprehensive strategy leverages and expands existing federal, state and local partnerships, including the HOPE Initiative, to address New Mexico’s opioid epidemic on several different fronts — law enforcement, prescription drug control, drug education, prevention and treatment,” Sean R. Waite of the DEA Albuquerque District Office said during a press conference.
Launched by the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center and the U.S. attorney’s office in 2015, the HOPE Initiative in New Mexico uses prevention, education, treatment, re-entry, law enforcement partnerships and strategic planning to reduce opioid abuse in the state.
Nationally, the 360 Strategy partners with groups that include the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.