LOS ALAMOS JJAB NEWS RELEASE
More than 50 local leaders, community members, and subject matter experts gathered at UNM LA on Wednesday, March 29th to learn about the drug fentanyl, the nature of addiction, and the supports that exist to help people who use substances and their families. Participants heard from professionals in the field as well as community members with direct experience.
The event kicked off with an introduction on fentanyl facts, the nature of addiction, and effective treatment options by Dr. Leslie Hayes, a family practitioner who works with El Centro Family Health and has extensive experience supporting people with substance use disorders. Dr. Hayes received the White House ‘Champion of Change’ award in 2016 for her work to advance prevention, treatment, and recovery in the state of New Mexico. Dr. Hayes emphasized the efficacy of medication-assisted treatments for opiate use disorder in helping many of her patients regain their lives.
Certified Peer Support Specialist Desiree Bustos followed with an explanation of the services El Centro is able to provide to people who may or may not yet be ready for recovery. She emphasized the importance of meeting people where they are and using non-judgmental, trauma-informed, harm reduction-based methods to engage their clients.
Officers from the Los Alamos Police Department, professionals who support students, and local community members shared how drug use and substance use disorders are affecting the Los Alamos County community and the region and emphasized the need for raising awareness and developing systems of support.
The closing speaker at the event was Brad Storey, whose son Nicolas Storey died in December 2020 due to an accidental fentanyl overdose. Mr. Storey emphasized the importance of talking to youth openly and nonjudgmentally about substance use and encouraging them to seek medical help in an emergency, as well as making fentanyl test strips and Narcan widely available.
“We need to break the secrecy and shame that surrounds the topic of substance use and become a more kind community that shows empathy and offers support to families who are struggling,” shared one of the event’s attendees. “People who use substances are often unwell and are just trying to feel better. It is not helpful to label them, to dismiss their experiences, or write it off as a kid making bad choices.”
One participant shared that the most valuable aspect of the event was “having the diversity of experience and expertise in one room and the ability to ask questions and find help. Also, having the Narcan available made it feel like I left with the power to do something rather than just knowledge.”
The event was a collaboration between Los Alamos JJAB, the Los Alamos County Municipal Courts, and the Los Alamos Public Schools’ Prevention Program. The gathering was designed to raise awareness of the dangers of fentanyl; to share current trends, best practices and resources; and to provide a venue for community connection and coordination of next steps. Attendees included LAPS and Los Alamos County leadership, representatives from the New Mexico Department of Health and Los Alamos County Social Services Division, public schools’ staff, members of the faith community, local non-profits, and concerned community members.
Because fentanyl and other contaminants frequently found in street drugs are so deadly, harm reduction efforts are a critical piece of the picture, often keeping users alive long enough to make the decision to seek help. Tools like Narcan, fentanyl test strips for testing drugs that have been purchased, and overdose prevention safety planning are lifesavers.
Students at Los Alamos Public Schools can use the Say Something app to anonymously report any concern they may have about instances of substance use, bullying, violence, self-harm, or threats of suicide. This system can be utilized any time a student or community member is worried about someone’s safety. https://www.sandyhookpromise.org/our-programs/say-something-anonymous-reporting-system/
Finding the Right Help
Youth and their families may have a hard time accessing and navigating the maze of public and private services available for substance-related support. Many factors such as insurance, type of care required, and the primary substance used can affect which programs will best serve a family. JJAB Resource Specialists work with providers both within and outside Los Alamos County to help access the best supports available for whomever in the family needs them. To request a Resource Specialist or learn more about RS services, visit the JJAB website at https://losalamosjjab.com/resource-specialist/ or call (505) 709-8125. Services are free and confidential and are available to any family with a child aged 5-18 who either lives in Los Alamos County or attends Los Alamos Public Schools.
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