The problems confronting the citizens, elected officials, government workers, and private sector employees dealing with addiction and its associated crimes in North Central New Mexico are both substantial in extent and complex in nature. They have been chronicled briefly in this report and more thoroughly in recent newspaper articles in the state, including the special report published by the Santa Fe New Mexican on June 13 of this year(6). On the face of it, the challenges that lie ahead must often seem insurmountable to those individuals who have to cope with them on a daily basis. Indeed, a physician who treats drug users who was interviewed for this report indicated that he was discouraged by the sheer dimensions of the problem after reading the special supplement in The New Mexican.
But as visitors to the state, the OJP Response Team has been impressed as much by New Mexico's assets and strengths as we have been struck by its problems and challenges. The leadership in the state is equal to the task. "Implementers" in the public and private sectors are talented and committed to their work. And most importantly the community in the Espanola Valley is coming forward and saying "basta!" - enough. Community organizations in small hamlets are working with police to rout drug traffickers, and are finding innovative ways to productively engage youth. Ordinary citizens and traditional spiritual mentors in the community (Los Hermanos de Penitentes) have joined hands with religious leaders to pray for an end to addiction and violence. These are all necessary prerequisites for the tasks that lie ahead. But, in the end, the challenge will be made all the more difficult if people cannot continue to put aside special interests and find ways to work together.
The Response Team's mission was to listen to New Mexicans and to recommend a structure that they can use to find "common-ground" in their fight against addiction and crime. We think that the proposed Rio Arriba Community Health and Justice Council is a practical vehicle that can serve this purpose and we encourage the people of New Mexico to consider its adoption.
6. Stories by Barbara Ferry / Photos by Abel Uribe, "Heroin: The Damage Done", The Santa Fe New Mexican, June 13 1999, Section E.
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