Drilling down NM substance abuse
Drug and alcohol abuse in New Mexico is "getting worse," according to a report released yesterday by the Legislative Finance Committee. The report says the combined rates of alcohol and drug related deaths in New Mexico have risen more than 60% since 2001. Last year, 2,081 New Mexicans died due to alcohol or drug addiction—more than any previous year. While spending on the problem has increased, the report identifies significant gaps in treatment, particularly for alcohol abuse; jails and hospitals in particular were noted as lacking in capacity to provide medication-assisted treatments. Yet, Medicaid expansion and the widespread distribution and use of naloxone both have made significant positive impacts in terms of policy approaches to substance abuse in the state.
Twenty years later
A hearing is scheduled today over new motions in a case against the state Human Services Department. The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty says HSD is failing to comply with earlier court orders and an action plan stemming from a 1989 class action lawsuit against the state for creating illegal barriers to people seeking food and medical assistance. "No family should have to go hungry or be without health coverage, but that's exactly what's happening in New Mexico," Teague Gonzalez, supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, said in a statement, which notes that "while some progress has been made, HSD has never satisfactorily addressed entrenched problems in administering food and medical assistance."
Pork barrel balance
Approximately $1.8 billion in funding for more than 3,100 infrastructure projects remains unspent, according to a new Legislative Finance Committee report ($TNM). While more than half of that was only approved this year, $627.4 million remains from prior years, signaling a "red flag" regarding "whether projects were fully funded or whether they were shovel-ready," according to LFC Deputy Director Charles Sallee. A New Mexico Department of Finance Administration dashboard lets anyone track these projects to see their status.
Now that’s a race
A third Republican has entered the New Mexico June 2020 GOP primary for the US Senate seat currently held by Tom Udall, who is not running for a third term. Gallup native Elisa Martinez, a member of the Navajo Nation, leads the anti-abortion nonprofit New Mexico Alliance for Life. Currently, Albuquerque contractor Mick Rich and former New Mexico State University professor Gavin Clarkson also are contending in the Republican primary; whomever wins will face District 3 US Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, currently the only Democrat in the race.
For its second year of service, Air Taos will add flights to and from Los Angeles and San Diego. Specifically, the airline announced yesterday, it will provide public charter flights that are fewer than two-and-a-half hours one way at comparable commercial prices between Taos and Hawthorne Municipal Airport in LA and McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad/San Diego. Those flights begin Jan. 9. The airline also will offer for the second year flights to and from Austin and Dallas; they begin Dec. 19 and, according to a city press release, had a $2 million economic impact in the area last year. Perks on the airline include 100% carbon offset and complimentary ski and snowboard rental packages.
The owner of the new Soap Refill Station hopes to help locals re-use plastic containers by offering bulk sale of shampoo, stain remover, laundry detergent, dish soap and other products that can be purchased using a reusable container. Owner Amy Harmon also has set up an "oil bar" where customers can customize their purchases with essential oil scents. "I find that having this option and being able to cut down on my waste—even if it's just 20, 30, 40%—that's very helpful," Harmon says.
Red sand and dresses
This week, SFR showcases two projects from Santa Fe Community College's Indigenous Peoples Club: The REDress Project and Red Sand Project, both part of Native American Heritage Month. The REDress Project, which began in Canada, displays red dresses signifying missing or murdered indigenous woman. The Red Sand Project, created by Molly Gochman, uses "sidewalk interventions and earthwork to create opportunities for people to question, connect and take action against vulnerabilities that can lead to human trafficking and exploitation."
The December Smithsonian magazine profiles Italian-born monk Giovanni Maria de Agostini who lived, for three years in the 1860s, in a cave on what's now known as Hermit Peak, 50 miles east of Santa Fe. "The Inspiring Monk Who Lived in a New Mexico Cave" also looks at the family who carries on the tradition of the organization that formed in recognition of de Agostini: Society of the Hermit. Joseph Abeyta, 36, of Las Vegas says: "I go to Mass on Sundays and I take my kids, but I feel closer to God praying in that cave, remembering that my uncle used to be right here and my grandpa used to be right here."
A wet day ahead, Santa Fe. Rain before 2 pm, rain showers likely between 2 and 5 pm, and rain and snow showers likely after 5 pm (less than half an inch accumulation is possible). Throw some possible thunder into the mix. The high today will be near 43. South wind 5 to 10 mph. Tonight's low will be around 28 degrees. Friday looks drier but cloudy, with a high temp of 42. The sun returns for the weekend with temps edging up toward 50.