WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján announced that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded two grants totaling $400,000 to combat the opioid epidemic in Rio Arriba County, N.M.
The County of Rio Arriba and El Centro Family Health each received $200,000 in grants through the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), to support the treatment and prevention of substance use disorder (SUD) in rural high-risk areas. Udall, Heinrich, and Luján successfully fought to make sure Rio Arriba County was prioritized and included in this funding.
“New Mexico, and Rio Arriba county in particular, have seen some of the most devastating consequences of the opioid epidemic. Too many New Mexicans are battling substance abuse disorder, and too many New Mexicans have lost family, friends, and loved ones to this crisis,” said Udall. “This funding is badly-needed in Rio Arriba County to help bolster prevention efforts – to help stop opioid abuse before it starts – and to help put New Mexicans facing addiction on the road to recovery. New Mexico has been among the hardest hit by the opioid crisis, and I’m going to keep fighting to make sure New Mexicans get their fair share of funding to help put an end to this epidemic once and for all.”
“Rio Arriba has been hit harder by the opioid epidemic than nearly any other county in America,” said Heinrich. “Too many of our families have lost loved ones and many more New Mexicans are struggling to find the treatment and recovery resources they need. I’m pleased this much-needed funding is going to Rio Arriba to support those on the frontlines of this crisis in our communities. I will continue to fight for dedicated resources to medical-assisted treatment, improved training for first responders, and evidence-based prevention and recovery strategies.”
“I am pleased to see Rio Arriba County receive this money,” said Lújan. “Funding for prevention efforts is critical to our fight to end the opioids crisis in New Mexico and across the country,” said Congressman Luján. “Communities in Rio Arriba County and across New Mexico have suffered tremendously from the opioid epidemic. This funding will help Rio Arriba communities prevent substance use disorder before it can begin and help countless New Mexicans on their paths to recovery. I will continue fighting to provide more resources for New Mexico communities to address the ongoing opioid crisis.”
In May, Udall, Heinrich and Luján called for counties like Rio Arriba, which ranks in the top five in the nation for rates of overdose death, to be prioritized as HRSA made grant award decisions. The lawmakers expressed their deep concerns about HRSA’s announcement for the grant opportunity, which caused confusion by including a prioritization list of 220 counties considered “at risk” based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) recommendations – a list that did not include any New Mexico counties. Although the list was to be used in addition to other counties at highest risk, the lawmakers shared their disapproval of its inclusion in the funding announcement. They argued that the CDC list, which was created to identify high infection rates for disease like HIV and hepatitis C, was not an effective tool to accurately direct support to rural communities at the highest risk of substance abuse disorder.
Following Udall, Heinrich, and Luján’s calls for New Mexico counties like Rio Arriba to be prioritized, HRSA issued a clarification indicating that counties did not need to be on the CDC list in order to apply for and receive funding. Today, Udall, Heinrich and Luján applauded the awards to Rio Arriba County.