Overdose Prevention Programs Bill Introduced In New Mexico

A New Mexico Representative has introduced a drug overdose prevention bill in the state legislature.

Representative Deborah Armstrong (D-17) last week introduced House Bill 123, which authorizes overdose prevention programs (OPP) as critical public health tools to help prevent overdose deaths.

Reducing Harm

The bill provides a path to health care, substance abuse treatment, and social support.

Armstrong Wrote HB 123 in response to New Mexico’s generations-long overdose crisis, which has surged due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a recent increase in fentanyl-related overdoses.

HB 123 gives municipalities and counties the authority to establish overdose prevention programs that meet New Mexico Department of Health guidelines.

The bill also provides legal protections for the programs and their participants.

Armstrong says that New Mexico has been concerned about the high rate of overdoses and that the time has come to use every harm reduction tool possible to prevent overdoses and save lives.

“Overdose prevention programs in hundreds of other cities across the world have proven to link people who use drugs to treatment and other services, reduce overdose deaths, prevent transmission of HIV and viral hepatitis, and reduce street-based drug use and syringe disposal,” says Armstrong. “If we are serious about reducing overdoses, and helping people to feel safe, supported and cared for in order to engage in treatment and recovery, then we have a responsibility to create overdose prevention programs here in New Mexico.”

OPPs would involve officially-sanctioned facilities where people could legally consume previously purchased illicit drugs under staff supervision.

Trained staff would provide immediate overdose response and connect users to medical care, drug treatment, and social services.

Public Health Benefits

According to the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), extensive research has shown that overdose prevention programs and supervised consumption services bring cost-saving public health benefits such as reducing public drug use and improper syringe disposal.

Drug Policy Alliance Senior Director of Resident States and New Mexico Emily Kaltenbach says that HB123 shifts focus away from failed drug war policies and allows the state to provide people with access to critical services that can save lives.

“Overdose prevention programs are an essential component of a continuum of care for people who use drugs,” says Kaltenbach. “These services will reach the people who need them most, move them off the streets, protect their dignity and health, and provide a pathway to drug treatment and other vital services. New Mexico has a long history of leading in innovative harm reduction, and this is an important moment to set an example for other states and do it again.”

There are approximately 120 supervised consumption services in ten countries worldwide, but none in the United States.

DPA says that OPPs can be a vital part of a larger public health approach to drug policy, serving to complement existing prevention, harm reduction, and treatment interventions instead of replacing them.