Udall, Heinrich, Luján Announce New Project to Fight Opioid Crisis in Rio Arriba County

$168,795 a year for AmeriCorps VISTA program will support network of agencies helping New Mexicans struggling with opioid abuse

WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, U.S Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M) and U.S. Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M) announced a new AmeriCorps VISTA program to fight the opioid crisis in Rio Arriba County, which has one of the highest heroin overdose death rates in the country. With an investment of $168,795 a year for up to five years, and seven AmeriCorps VISTA members on the ground, the Rio Arriba County Health and Human Services Department AmeriCorps VISTA program will provide assistance and support to a network of providers who treat and assist individuals negatively affected by opioid abuse.  

The VISTA program in Rio Arriba County will specifically focus on supporting New Mexicans recovering from drug addiction who are returning to the workforce, grandparents raising the grandchildren of individuals struggling with addiction, and other low-income New Mexicans battling substance abuse disorders. Through a combination of prevention, recovery, and education resources, this VISTA project expects to benefit approximately 700 New Mexicans in Rio Arriba county directly affected by the opioid abuse epidemic. 

“The opioid epidemic has taken a devastating toll on too many New Mexico families and communities,” said Udall. "This AmeriCorps VISTA project will provide urgently-needed resources to Rio Arriba County, helping to prevent drug abuse before it starts and put New Mexicans struggling with addiction on the path to recovery. Communities like Rio Arriba County have seen families torn apart and lives lost, and I’ll keep fighting for the resources we need to help New Mexicans who are battling  the tragic consequences of addiction reclaim their lives.” 

“For years without adequate treatment resources, our state has suffered through some of the highest rates of opioid and heroin addiction in the nation,” said Heinrich. “The opioid epidemic has been deeply felt in communities across New Mexico, especially in places like Rio Arriba County.  We know the devastating toll opioid addiction can take on families. This AmeriCorps VISTA project is critical for organizations on the front lines of confronting this epidemic, and will allow families to access much-needed treatment and rehabilitation.”

“Too many New Mexican families and communities have been devastated by the ongoing opioid crisis,” said Luján. “Programs like AmeriCorps VISTA are essential to New Mexico’s efforts to combat the opioid epidemic and prevent more lives from being lost. It is encouraging to see projects focused on communities like Rio Arriba County, which has been one of the areas hardest hit by this crisis. While much remains to be done, I am committed to ensuring New Mexico has the resources necessary to provide help to all those who want it.”

The seven AmeriCorps VISTA members will: increase the capacity of the Hoy Recovery Program, a local substance abuse treatment provider; build the capacity of Las Cumbres Community Services, a local behavioral health provider for children, to assist grandparents raising the children of individuals struggling with addiction; provide support to Behavioral Health Investment Zone partners to assist New Mexicans in recovery; and organize volunteer efforts to help seniors take advantage of the benefits and assistance available to the. This is New Mexico’s first opioid-focused VISTA project.