The opioid epidemic is one of the greatest and gravest public health crises our nation has ever faced. It has taken a heartbreaking toll on families all across New Mexico. For years, without adequate treatment resources, communities in our state have suffered through some of the highest rates of opioid and heroin dependence and overdose deaths in the nation. Too many of us have lost loved ones and many more New Mexicans are struggling to find the treatment and recovery resources they need.
In the U.S. Senate, we just passed the bipartisan Opioid Crisis Response Act to deliver emergency funding to combat the opioid crisis. I’ve fought to ensure competitive grants give preference to states like New Mexico that are experiencing the highest prevalence of opioid dependence and overdoses. Particularly in our rural and tribal communities, there is a severe lack of access to proven treatment and rehabilitation resources. That’s why I was proud to announce more than $15 million in new federal grant funding that will help our providers deliver treatment and resources to New Mexicans in need.
It is going to take community-wide strategies to effectively confront the opioid crisis. I have made a priority to sit down with medical professionals, law enforcement, local leaders, recovering people, and family members to learn from their experiences. I toured treatment centers that are helping New Mexicans. And I participated in a training on administering Narcan, a lifesaving drug that first responders use to reverse the deadly effects of opioid overdose. I am focused on steering resources toward evidence-based approaches to prevention and treatment.
One thing I hear consistently is how difficult it can be for local nonprofits and government agencies to navigate the complicated process of applying for federal grants. So I recently launched a comprehensive Opioid Resource Guide to offer helpful information and guidance to local governments, tribes, and service providers. In addition to this clearinghouse of resources, my office can also help eligible grant seekers identify and compete for available funding opportunities.
Unfortunately, even though we have made some progress, the funding and resources we have deployed still aren’t adequate to address the full extent of our needs in this major crisis. There is so much more we must do. New Mexico desperately needs more detoxification centers, more transitional housing facilities, more outpatient services, effective enforcement programs, and more behavioral health resources.
I believe we also need to fundamentally rethink the way our nation views this epidemic. Substance use disorders are diseases that can happen to anyone. When we remove the stigma and treat them like other public health challenges—rather than as incurable personal vices or moral failings—we can start thinking about the real steps necessary to address the opioid epidemic with even more urgent investments in prevention and treatment.
Evidence shows us that when provided with an opportunity to receive comprehensive, medical-assisted treatment and rehabilitation, people who have suffered through the trials of opioid abuse can turn their lives around.
I will keep doing everything I can to fight for the funding, resources, and policies we need to ensure every New Mexican who needs it can find treatment and lifesaving care so they can get on the road to recovery.
Martin Heinrich is the Democratic incumbent in the U.S. Senate, representing New Mexico. He is running for a second term.