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DEADLY ADDICTION
More than twice as many New Mexicans die of drug overdoses as the national average (per capita).

New Mexico’s love affair with drugs
First in a four-part series
Copyright © 2012 Albuquerque Journal By Mike Gallagher
Journal Investigative Reporter

Dear Readers: I’ve been watching drugs kill people for as long as I’ve been a reporter in New Mexico. In the 1970s, it was heroin. Then, it was speed, methamphetamine produced by bikers called “crankster gangsters.” In the 1980s, it was cocaine. Later in the decade and into the 1990s, it was crack cocaine. Then, heroin made a comeback. Then, methamphetamine again, this time made by Mexican cartels and called ICE. Then, oxycodone and hydrocodone. And now, we’re back to heroin again, with plenty of prescription drugs mixed in. Interspersed were drugs like PCP, MDMA and so many others I can’t even remember all of them. Over the next four days, I’m going to lay out some ugly statistics and ugly stories about drugs in New Mexico. Maybe we can start a discussion about what to do. Various events in New Mexico’s drug saga have triggered press conferences, police raids, headlines and trials. But there has been one constant: People died. They died of overdoses. They died of AIDS from sharing needles. They died of stab wounds and gunshots in arguments over drug debts. Infants died from neglect. Drug-addled teens died in car crashes. And men in their 50s died from bodies riddled with hepatitis. I don’t have a lot of answers, but I do know this: Things aren’t getting better. They are getting worse. It’s time for a real conversation about how to break New Mexico’s deadly addiction. — Mike Gallagher

This isn’t Detroit. It isn’t Compton, Calif. We don’t have overcrowded and crumbling inner cities. But when the Centers for Disease Control last November announced that death rates for prescription drugs had reached epidemic proportions nationally, New Mexico was at the top of the list. About Our death rate from the series prescription drug TODAY: New Mexico’s overdoses surpassed even Deadly Addiction our traditionally tops-inMONDAY: Heroin — the-nation death rate from More Lethal Than Ever heroin overdoses. TUESDAY: Painkillers “This is the time to Turn Deadly bring a sense of urgency WEDNESDAY: What to parents, schools, Can Be Done? coaches, physicians The complete series and pharmacists,” U.S. will be posted on Attorney Ken Gonzales ABQjournal.com said in an interview. “Rio Arriba, Taos, About the author (Bernalillo County’s) South Mike Gallagher has Valley, the problem is been an investigative ingrained in the lifeblood reporter for the of the community,” Albuquerque Journal Gonzales said. “Its more since 1986. He has than a toehold, more than been a reporter in New a foothold.” Mexico since 1975, And Gonzales said covering everything communities like from Mexican drug cartels to political Albuquerque’s Northeast corruption. Heights are in danger. “In communities like the Heights, as devastating as the overdoses have been, it hasn’t taken hold in that community, but we have to act with urgency,” he said. “Or we’re going to lose it if we don’t.” Why New Mexico? Is it our border with Mexico? Is it the state’s high rate of poverty and the associated social problems? See PRICE on PAGE A4

Romney, Ryan Hit the Road

INSIDE
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ARTS BOOKS CAREERS CLASSIFIEDS COMMUNITY CROSSWORD DIMENSION EDITORIALS HOROSCOPE LIVING LOTTERY F1 F4 H1 G3 E3 E2, G3 C6 B2 E2 E1 A2 MONEY MOVIES NEW MEXICO OBITUARIES REVIEWS REAL ESTATE SPORTS TRAVEL TV C1 F5 B1 B4 F3, 5 G1 D1 E6 D8 WEATHERLINE 821-1111

A Real N.M. Brouhaha

GOP presidential contender introduces running mate, vows to revitalize economy

By Kasie Hunt
The Associated Press

NORFOLK, Va. — Republican Mitt Romney anointed Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, an ardent conservative and devoted budget cutter, as his vice presidential running mate on Saturday, and the two men immediately embarked on a tour of campaign battleground states vowing to defeat President Barack Obama and repair the long-ailing U.S. economy.

America is “a nation facing debt, doubt and despair,” and a transformative change in leadership is vital, Ryan declared to a flag-waving crowd in the first moments after Romney introduced him as his partner for RYAN: Nation the fall campaign. “Regrettably, Presi- “facing debt, d e n t O b a m a h a s doubt” become part of the problem ... and Mitt Romney is the solution,” said the seven-term lawSee ROMNEY on PAGE A6

A

Albuquerque Journal online ABQjournal.com

s I write this, I hold in my hand a warm, fat breakfast burrito wrapped in foil and brimming with cheese and red chile. So, excuse any sloppy typos as we talk about the New Mexico crisis de jour: The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiestas’s food fight. The war that has been bubbling like hot grated cheddar for weeks now pits the board that runs our annual gathering of gliding gondolas against the men and women who wrap scrambled eggs, spuds, cheese and chile in

Leslie Linthicum

UpFront
warm tortillas and hand over the bulging bundles of bliss to hungry balloon watchers for a week or so each October. If you haven’t been following this particular Balloon Fiesta fiasco, allow me to catch you up. The Balloon
See A REAL on PAGE A2

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A4 The Sunday Journal

date of proof: august 9, 2012

DEADLY ADDICTION

Albuquerque, August 12, 2012

Price, Purity Fuel N.M. Love Affair With Drugs
from PAGE A1

Is it the criminal justice system? While they may all play a role, the phrase used over and over again in response to Journal questions over the past eight months was “a perfect storm” that is leaving a trail of death in its path. It turns out that in addition to all of New Mexico’s social problems, the state’s deadly love affair with drugs is fueled by three factors — price, purity and availability. Just how cheap and pure was illustrated last year during a quick and dirty federal task force undercover operation that arrested 11 user/dealers in the area around Eldorado High School in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights. n Undercover agents bought grams of heroin for $100 — the same price as in 1977. n The purity of the heroin agents purchased was three to four times the purity level of heroin sold just 10 years ago. n The heroin was cheaper than prescription opiate painkillers on the street, which average $1 per milligram. That’s $10 for a 10-milligram hydrocodone pill. Federal drug agents say the purity of the heroin and availability of prescription painkillers allow it to be smoked or snorted. “Kids think they’re not a heroin addict if they’re not using a needle,” one federal task force agent said. And those kids can buy heroin or prescription drugs near their high schools, as federal agents proved in last year’s roundup around Eldorado High School — several of those arrested were former students supporting their own addiction by selling to youngsters. Attorney Joseph Riggs has represented criminal defendants for more than 30 years, including many drug addicts. “What is shocking today is the frightening availability of heroin and painkillers,” Riggs said. “It is a communitywide problem, no longer confined to specific neighborhoods.” Dr. George Davis oversees psychiatric services at the state Children, Youth and Families Department’s secure lockups in Albuquerque. “The opiate overdose, call it suicide, rate is just an indicator of neglect, child abuse and broad social problems,” Davis said. “Abuse by parents using drugs drives our numbers of residents.” And by any measure, New Mexico’s drug problem is widespread. Among those measures: n Teen drug use in New Mexico — heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine — is double and triple the national average, depending on the drug. n The Department of Health estimates there are 25,000 needle-using addicts in the state. n Department of Justice statistics show that more than half of the New Mexico inmates in state prisons and local jails are arrested for drug-related crimes.

DRUG-INDUCED DEATH RATES* BY COUNTY, NEW MEXICO, 2005-2009
U.S., 2003-2007 N.M. (2,199; 100%)

11.4 21.4
51.1 28.0 27.9 26.6 26.5 25.8 24.8 24.0 23.5 23.1 22.4 20.2 20.0 18.8 18.1 16.4 16.3 16.1 15.6 15.1 14.0 13.5 12.5 11.4 10.8

County not included due to the small number of deaths during reported period. Less than 21.4 21.4 - 32.1 Greater than 32.1

(Number of deaths; % of statewide deaths) Rio Arriba (112; 5.1%) Eddy (70; 3.2%) Torrance (26; 1.2%) Chaves (82; 3.7%) Bernalillo (882; 40.1%) Valencia (96; 4.4%) Taos (40; 1.8%) Grant (37; 1.7%) San Miguel (35; 1.6%) Sierra (16; 0.7%) Socorro (21; 1%) Quay (10; 0.5%) Colfax (15; 0.7%) Otero (63; 2.9%) Santa Fe (141; 6.4%) Lincoln (20; 0.9%) Lea (45; 2%) Dona Ana (155; 7.1%) Sandoval (93; 4.2%) Cibola (21; 1%) San Juan (90; 4.1%) McKinley (47; 2.1%) Roosevelt (11; 0.5%) Curry (26; 1.2%) Luna (13; 0.6%) drug series_high schools

San Juan

Rio Arriba

Taos

Colfax

Union

McKinley

Los Alamos Sandoval Bernalillo Santa Fe

Mora San Miguel

Harding

Cibola

Guadalupe Torrance De Baca

Quay Curry Roosevelt

Valencia

Catron

Socorro Lincoln Chaves Sierra

painkillers in promoting their use for more than a decade, until sued by the Department of Justice. The lawsuits were settled for almost $1 billion. n State Medical Board rules around the country, including New Mexico, put doctors in a position in which undertreating pain by failing to prescribe pain medication constituted malpractice. As a result, doctors sometimes prescribed more opioid painkillers than necessary. n Patients, and for teen patients their parents, are unaware or uneducated about the dangers of prescription opioid painkillers. n Well over half of prescription pain medications used illegally come from family members, according to federal studies. “We are too casual in the use of pain medication,” Silver said. “There are risks with every patient receiving a prescription, and those risks can be extreme.”

Positive steps
The news isn’t all bad. At the state and local level, some positive steps have been taken and are showing some results. Among them: n The number of drug overdose deaths were lower statewide in 2009 and 2010, down from a high of 500 in 2008 to 466 in 2009 and 477 in 2010. n The State Board of Pharmacy voted in June to increase monitoring of prescription opioid

Grant Doña Ana Otero Eddy Lea

Luna

* All rates are per 100,000, artist: cathryn cunningham age-adjusted to the 2000 U.S. standard population. size: 2 col x 33p date of proof: aug 9, 2012

Hidalgo

drug series_US overdose map archive x_maps_nm_drugs artist: cathryn cunningham size: 3 col x 19p date of proof: aug 9, 2012

SOURCE: New Mexico Substance Abuse Epidemiology Profile

HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT DRUG USE, 2009
Percentage who reported using heroin, cocaine, or meth one or more times
United States New Mexico Albuquerque High Atrisco Heritage Cibola Del Norte Eldorado Highland La Cueva Manzano Rio Grande Sandia Valley Volcano Vista West Mesa
7% 9% 7% 7% 7% 8% 9% 4% 7% 9% 9% 13% 14% 13% 11% 16% 4% 6% 7% 5% 8% 9% 11% 11% 13% 13% 3% 3% 4% 5% 6% 4% 5% 7% 9% 14% 13% 15% 19% heroin cocaine meth

DRUG OVERDOSE DEATH RATES BY STATE PER 100,000 PEOPLE (2008)
AK HI WA MT OR ID WY NV CA UT CO ND SD NE KS OK TX MN IA IL MO AR LA WI MI IN OH KY TN MS AL GA FL NH VT NY PA W V VA NC SC

ME MA RI CT NJ DE MD DC

7% 7% 8%

drug series_Overdose Deaths A Z archive x_charts_ Rate per 100,000 people 17% artist: cathryn cunningham (adjusted for age) size: 2 col x 18p 5.5 - 9.4 date of proof: aug 9, 2012 9.5 - 12.3 12.4 - 14.8 14.9 - 27.0
16%

NM

SOURCE: National Vital Statistics System, 2008

DRUG OVERDOSE DEATH RATES IN THE U.S. AND NEW MEXICO, 1999-2008
30 25 20 15 10 5 0
1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008

New Mexico

United States

10%

SOURCE: New Mexico Youth Risk and Resiliency Survey, 2009; UNM Center for Education and Policy Research

Highest death rate
In 2008, New Mexico had the highest heroin and prescription-drug overdose death rate in the country. From 2000 to 2008, overdose deaths from opiates tripled. Those numbers are not manipulated or estimated. They are counted in bodies on an autopsy table and in toxicology reports. The conventional wisdom — testimony at the Legislature, interviews with law enforcement, families of victims — can lead the public to believe this epidemic is isolated to young people in their teens or early 20s. Heroin and prescription drug overdoses do, tragically, kill bright young people. While their tragedies grab headlines, teenagers abusing drugs are not the cause of New Mexico’s national standing in overdose deaths. The vast majority of New

Mexicans dying of drug overdoses are ages 25 to 64. Out of 2,200 drug-induced deaths from 2005 to 2009, just over 1,900 were men and women 25 years or older. The median age of those who died of drug overdoses was 43.7 years. Breaking the statistics down further shows that heroin addicts tend to die of overdoses in their mid-30s. Prescription drug overdoses kill more people in their mid-50s. That indicates to epidemiologists who study the problem that people become addicted to prescription drugs at an older age, probably because of health problems. Heroin addicts tend to start using the drug at a younger age, in their late teens and early 20s. The problem of widespread prescription or illegal drug use by teens is a long-term issue leading to the creation of another generation of addicts.

Two drug problems
Prescription opioid painkillers and heroin pose two separate problems for law enforcement. Heroin traffickers operate criminal organizations handling everything from the cultivation of poppies in Mexico to the sale of heroin

to user/dealers throughout the state. Painkillers are manufactured in the United States legally and distributed legally through a regulated system. Prescription drugs become illegal only when the drugs are diverted out of the system. “We are, from an enforcement and prosecution viewpoint, designed to deal with drug trafficking organizations,” U.S. Attorney Gonzales said. “Prescription drugs present a different dynamic.” Keith Brown, assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Drug Enforcement office in Albuquerque, put it this way: “There is no prescription drug cartel to target.” But the two drug problems do overlap. People who become addicted to prescription opiates often find they can no longer get access to the drugs, or their habits have become too expensive. Heroin is often a cheaper and readily obtainable alternative. “You don’t have to look for heroin in New Mexico; it will find you,” Mike Salinas, a heroin addict trying to get clean, said in a recent interview. Among factors contributing to heroin

Note: Deaths per 100,000 population, age-adjusted to the 2000 standard U.S. population.
SOURCE: New Mexico Department of Health

overdose deaths: n Multigenerational heroin addiction is part of the cultural fabric of communities in the Rio Grande Valley. n Mexican cartels have been marketing cheap, high-quality heroin to younger users in affluent neighborhoods. n Heroin production in Mexico has been at an alltime high over the past four years.

‘Pill-popping culture’
Federal narcotics agents raid drug dealers, not the family medicine cabinet. As a society, we’ve been trained to take pills, from daily vitamins to cold tablets. “We’re a pill-popping culture,” Jennifer Weiss of the Heroin Awareness Committee said. “Once a kid gets addicted to prescription pills, it is a very short leap to heroin.” “The development of a prescription drug habit is subtle,” the DEA’s Brown said. “Parents and family members have no idea what to look for.” Dr. Harris Silver knows

just how subtle painkillers can be. More than 20 years ago, they almost destroyed his career as a medical doctor, and now he spends his time educating other doctors, legislators, parents and anyone who will listen about the dangers of prescription painkillers. “People don’t realize that one in 20 patients receiving a prescription for opiate painkillers is at high risk for addiction,” Silver said. “It takes 11 days of daily use for someone to start showing signs of withdrawal if they stop taking the pills,” Silver said. “That’s how quickly addiction can happen.” Silver was the lead analyst on a legislative drug task force report prepared by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico. Silver found these contributing factors for prescription drug overdoses in New Mexico: n Pharmaceutical companies deliberately downplayed the addictive qualities of prescription

painkiller drugs. n The State Medical Board is making voluntary guidelines on opioid drug prescriptions mandatory for doctors and others. n Harm-reduction programs run by the State Department of Health are making more inroads into communities where heroin use has been widespread for decades. n A U.S. Senate committee is investigating financial ties between the pharmaceutical industry and “pain” lobbyist organizations that push back against regulators’ attempts to rein in the growth in the use of painkilling medications. n Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and mayors around the country have joined in a campaign to educate parents about safeguarding prescription medications. n Parents of teens who died of drug overdoses or who are fighting addiction have joined together to educate other parents and push for programs and reforms — much like Mothers Against Drunk Driving did decades ago to fight the state’s drunken driving problem. “I don’t need to talk to a gymnasium full of kids,” the DEA’s Brown said in a recent interview. “I need to talk to gymnasiums full of parents. They’re the ones we need to educate.” That’s not just a cop talking. Mike Para works for the YDI Inc. Gang Intervention Program and has the tattooed “cred” and music chops to talk with any teen. “Parents. Parents. Parents. They’re the ones who have to listen. They’re the ones who can provide the structure these kids need. They’re the ones we need to be talking to.”

Out of 2,200 drug-induced deaths from 2005 to 2009, just over 1,900 were men and women 25 years old or older.

The Sunday Journal

DEADLY ADDICTION

Albuquerque, August 12, 2012 A5

Treatment For Teens Lacking
n■

Parents group focuses on the lack of programs for youths

PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL

A pregnant Alma Cortes, 34, talks about being a heroin addict and expectant mother at Metropolitan Assessment and Treatment Services, where she is enrolled in the Milagro program for pregnant addicts.

Heroin’s High Was Too Hard To Resist
n■

But expectant mom says she’s committed to kicking the habit

When she and her friends started snorting “chiva” in high school, Alma Cortes says they told themselves they weren’t doing heroin. “It was OK — we weren’t sticking a needle in our arms,” she said in a recent interview. “We were naive that way.” That was 17 years ago in Grapevine, Texas, and heroin was the drug of choice at her high school. “The first time I used, I threw up, got sick all the next day,” Cortes said. “But the high was so intense, I kept using it. The stuff was so pure, there were a lot of ODs.”

Since then, it has been 17 years of using heroin, kicking her addiction and using heroin again. She figures she’s kicked her habit 10 times and fallen back into the habit 11 times. “I’d be clean for years and think, ‘I can get high just this once’, but you don’t, you like it too much,” she says. “I would stop and start. Each time, it was harder to stop.” Now she’s 6½ months pregnant. “I’ve taken college biology classes. I know what happens to the babies of addicts. I didn’t want that to happen. I tried never to get pregnant.” But about five months ago she realized she was pregnant. “I started to try and kick on my own. Not use for three or four days, or just enough to keep from getting sick.

“I knew what it was going to do to a baby. I didn’t want to have a baby in addiction.” Living in Roswell, she had to travel to Carlsbad to see a doctor who was approved to use Suboxone, a drug used to help addicts stop using heroin. “This is how crazy addiction is,” Cortes said. “You know that you can’t get high from heroin when you take Suboxen, but guess what, I had to try it. Tried it twice. Didn’t work. How crazy is that?” Because she had “dirty” urine tests, her doctor said he couldn’t keep treating her. “He was very frustrated with me,” she said. Two months ago, she decided to seek out an inpatient program, and her mother took her to UNM Hospital, where she was

examined and evaluated. She’s now at the Milagro program for pregnant addicts run by Bernalillo County’s Department of Substance Abuse Programs, the state Department of Health and the University of New Mexico. There are eight beds, and mothers of newborns are allowed to stay in the furnished apartments. She’s on Methadone, but the doctors tell her they know how to deal with babies born addicted to methadone. “It wasn’t just luck to get in here; it was a miracle. I’m getting counseling. I’m getting the checkups. I’m in a safe place,” she said. “Now I’ve got to commit to being clean for my baby boy.” She hasn’t decided on the baby’s name yet. — Mike Gallagher

When the Heroin Awareness Committee looked around at what it could do to spare other parents and teens the pain of addiction and death, it would have been easy to get overwhelmed. “There were a lot of needs,” Jennifer Weiss, one of the founders, said. Education was a glaring deficiency. Getting the state Legislature’s attention was another. Weiss and the other parents forming the committee have children either lost to drug overdoses WEISS: or who in Founding recovery. member of Like the the Heroin parents in Awareness Mothers Committee Against Drunk Driving, they have political credibility. Politicians of both parties listen. Whether they have the long-term staying power of MADD remains to be seen, but a long-term goal they have decided to address is the lack of drug addiction treatment programs for teens. “The resources simply are not adequate,” Weiss said. “Inpatient beds are limited in New Mexico and outof-state care is expensive. Thirty to forty thousand dollars for a 30-day stay is out of reach.” The New Mexico Drug Policy Task Force, with members appointed by legislators and Gov. Susana Martinez, found: n New Mexico ranks No. 1 in the nation, “by far,” for unmet treatment needs for illicit and prescription drug abuse for the 12 to 17 age group. n The state and municipalities have substantially reduced funding for prevention programs. n There are not enough trained professionals to staff rehabilitation facilities that are needed but don’t exist.

n Inpatient addiction treatment is out of reach of many families because major insurers and Medicaid don’t pay for residential treatment. “We are developing a plan for an adolescent treatment center,” Weiss said. “It will be presented to Gov. Martinez and Albuquerque Mayor (Richard) Berry.” The goal, and it may be a long-term one, is to create a “comprehensive system” of care for teen drug addicts, she said. “It is much harder for adults to get clean,” Weiss said. “It makes sense to attack the problem at an earlier age.”

Getting treatment
One of the ironies in this equation is that it is easier to get drug treatment once you’ve been arrested. That conclusion didn’t come from some activist for legalizing drugs. It came from the head of the overcrowded Metropolitan Detention Center, Director Ramon Rustin. “We’re back-end loaded,” Rustin said. “You enter the criminal justice system, and you receive treatment, but the arrest record can make staying clean that much harder. “It is harder to get a job. Harder to find an apartment,” he said. “A lot of places won’t rent to a person with a drug arrest.” “We can detox a heroin addict in two weeks,” Rustin said. “They get out sober but with no job and no place to live. What they have is the drug.” There are 300 to 400 inmates each month who enter the drug and alcohol detox programs in the jail. “That’s a significant number, and only those with the most extreme addiction go into the programs,” he said. Rustin’s boss, Deputy County Manager Tom Swisstack, said it may not be a question of spending more money, but rearranging how and where money is spent. “If you move resources to the front end of the criminal justice system, literally the booking desk, we may be able to divert people into programs they need,” Swisstack said. — Mike Gallagher

For At-Risk Teenager, It’s ‘Easy To Get Into Trouble’
His friends call him “Gio,” and so will we. He has a lot of weight to carry, and having his name in the newspaper would only add to that weight. Gio, 15, has two early memories. “I was about 5. We lived in an apartment near the State Fairgrounds, I was trying to get into the apartment and couldn’t open the door,” he said. He remembers running to the apartment of a neighbor, who came to his aid and helped open the door. They found Gio’s mother passed out from using heroin. Another time, when he was a little older, he and his younger brother were playing in the median of a busy street near East Central late at night. His mother was at an apartment high on heroin. He remembers the back of the police car. His mother was in the back of another police car. Then, there is the memory of coming home when he was 11 and finding his mother dead of a heroin overdose. He called the ambulance. “Heroin is really bad stuff,” Gio said in an interview at the YDI Inc. Gang Intervention Program. Present were program director Judy Pacheco, a counselor and his grandmother. Gio’s grandmother said, “I did what I could. Took her to rehab. Took her to the emergency rooms. Sometimes she went to jail, and the dealers were waiting for her, knocking on her door, when she got out. “They should charge heroin dealers with murder; they’re killing kids,” she said. Gio looked at her and said, “The kids kill themselves.” He came to YDI because it had a hip-hop stage and recording program. He likes to sing and has a part in a recorded hip-hopera

PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL

YDI’s Rusty Rutherford leads a rap session with teens as part of the nonprofit’s gang intervention outreach program.
called “Chasing Nowhere.” “I wanted to perform,” he said. “I found out about it from a friend.” He’s one of more than 350 kids YDI’s Gang Intervention program reaches each year. About 25 percent are referred by the Juvenile Court, but most are walk-ins like Gio. Getting kids moving in a positive direction, instead of a self-destructive one, is the goal, said Rusty Rutherford, an intervention specialist. “It doesn’t matter what side of town you’re from — preppy white kids from the Heights or gang members from the Valley,” he said. “We all have differences, and we all have problems.”

PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL

Fifteen-year-old Gio, who lost his mother to a heroin overdose, works on his hip-hop singing at Youth Development Inc.’s Gang Intervention Program.
at the time of the interview, because of some recent unstated trouble with the law. “Its pretty easy to get into trouble,” Gio said. “You don’t have to go looking for it. It just happens.” But if you think he’s unique, take a look at a series of maps prepared by the University of New Mexico Center for Education Policy Research called Mapping The Landscape. Peter Winograd, the center’s head, says it paints a bleak portrait of the state’s educational system and the future for many New Mexico kids: n Truancy rates for many schools are over 30 percent. Students with more than 10 absences are considered truant. n Dropout rates of more than 30 percent. n Drug use two or three times the national average. n Poverty rates in some areas above 30 percent. Leaf through it, and the statistics get more depressing with each page, something Winograd freely admits. “It is a difficult picture to look at,” Winograd said. “But you have to understand the extent of the problem before you can move forward.” Solutions may not lie in spending more money, but in how to use the money available, Winograd said. “You need to start the discussion somewhere,” he said. But he said he isn’t a defeatist. “In my lifetime, the Berlin Wall was torn down and segregation was broken,” Winograd said. “Those were significant achievements. This lays out another challenge.” — Mike Gallagher

‘At-risk’ teen
By any definition, Gio is an “at-risk” teen. School, to say the least, hasn’t been easy. But his grades are getting better. He was wearing an ankle bracelet monitor

More than half of the New Mexico inmates in state prisons and local jails are arrested for drug-related crimes.*

* Department of Justice statistics

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Isotopes Settle Flyball Case
Ball Struck Boy In Picnic Area
Copyright © 2012 Albuquerque Journal

TODAY’S HEROIN

DEADLY ADDICTION

Cheap, Attractive and Lethal
Part 2 of a four-part series.
Copyright © 2012 Albuquerque Journal

By Mike Gallagher
Journal Investigative Reporter

By Scott Sandlin
Journal Staff Writer

A state Supreme Court ruling in 2010 created “a whole new ballgame” with regard to liability for ballparks when a visitor is injured by a flyball. It rejected the so-called “baseball rule,” which offered widespread immunity to ball clubs and stadium owners, and said they can be sued in New Mexico. The precedent-setting ruling also said baseball is a unique spectator sport and fans share responsibility for their safety. The case that engendered the legal fight involving a 4-year-old boy who was struck on the head by a ball on the opening day of the season was settled last week. The case stemming from the July 2003 incident was to have gone to trial before District Judge Alan Malott, who had issued recent rulings about the scope of evidence the plaintiffs could present. The settlement amount is confidential, but the entire sum was paid by the Isotopes. The Isotopes were defendants in the lawsuit, wh ich stem med f rom a player for the New Orleans Zephyrs hitting a ball into the stadium’s picnic area during pregame batting practice. The attorney for the boy’s family said he regretted the case didn’t get a public airing. “It ’s just a da ngerous situation out there,” said attorney Jake Vigil, who represented the family of Emilio Crespin, now 12. “Unless you’ve got a complete heads-up about what’s going on, you could end up severely injured or dead.” He said one ball club official said in a deposition there are hundreds of injuries at the park each year, yet “they’ve n eve r eve n c o n s id e r e d
See ISOTOPES on PAGE A2

PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL

Female heroin addicts wrap themselves in blankets while withdrawing from heroin addiction.

Dear Readers The demise of the Mexican heroin trade has been announced at least three times during my career — in the early 1980s when cocaine grabbed the headlines, again during the crack cocaine epidemic and finally around 2000. But heroin never went away. True, there is a difference now. Black tar has been replaced by brown powder. It’s cheap, and the higher purity level means it can be smoked or snorted. That makes it a drug of choice for teens, in particular, who think it’s safe because they don’t need a needle. The higher potency makes it more addictive and easier to overdose. But while law enforcement priorities changed like the wind, in New Mexico, heroin was always there. Over the years, the official assessment of the problem seemed to ebb and flow with little connection to reality. At some point, I concluded that any announcement of the demise of the Mexican heroin trade was the same as using the phrase “war on drugs.” It was political rhetoric for political agendas. As long as heroin kept its place in poor neighborhoods, killing people of color or homeless men who smell of urine, many bought into the myth that heroin was no longer a problem. But let heroin do its deadly work in the vaulted ceilings of Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights — where the Nayarit Cartel targets affluent teenagers — and the myth is destroyed. Suddenly, heroin is real and it kills. In the world I’ve covered, that’s always been the reality. Mike Gallagher

During 2005, in the middle of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the warnings from Drug Enforcement Administration analysts got lost. Mexican heroin was becoming more abundant. Purity levels were rising. The warnings in those internal documents reviewed by the Journal were in stark contrast to what the U.S. State Department had told Congress five years earlier — that Mexican poppy cultivation was at an all-time low and Mexico was no longer a major problem as far as heroin was concerned. Some of the DEA warnings made it into the public arena in 2006, and they became louder in 2008. Other agencies, such as Homeland Security, took note that the purity of heroin seized at the border was increasing. The DEA found more and more Mexican heroin on the East Coast. But that story was pushed to the background by the increasing violence between the Mexican drug cartels and the involvement of the Mexican army. Those stories dominated front pages, the Internet and the nightly news. The annual reports on Mexican heroin poppy cultivation in Mexico hardly caused a ripple. But as cartel violence claimed the lives of more than 50,000 people, Mexican heroin production more than doubled between 2005 and 2007 from 9.6 tons to 21.6 tons as the total acreage under cultivation for poppies boomed. From 2007 to 2008, heroin production estimates doubled again to 45.6 tons, according to the National Drug IntelliSee TODAY’S on PAGE A4

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Veteran Examines APD Morale

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L

Albuquerque Journal online ABQjournal.com

t. Jay Gilhooly retired from the Albuquerque Police Department on Aug. 3, three days before it notched its 25th officer-involved shooting since 2010 and three days after allegations surfaced concerning the use of cellphone cameras and private cellphones by highranking police officials at the home of deceased civil rights attorney/adversary Mary

Joline Gutierrez Krueger

UpFront
Han. It was also the week one of two ousted officers continued his fight to regain his job before the city Personnel

Board after repeatedly kicking a downed and potentially dangerous suspect. Meanwhile, other officers continued to bicker anonymously on public blogs, some citizens continued to only half-joke that they were in fear of their police force and Chief Ray Schultz was out of town. Again. “Morale,” Gilhooly said in what is certainly one of the
See APD on PAGE A2
JOURNAL FILE

Lt. Jay Gilhooly retired this month after nearly 20 years with the Albuquerque Police Department. Gilhooly says he is proud of APD but says leadership, vision and communication are lacking.

A4 Albuquerque Journal

DEADLY ADDICTION

Monday, August 13, 2012

Today’s Heroin: Cheap, Attractive and Lethal
from PAGE A1

gence Center 2010 report. Instead of producing black tar heroin — a process that uses less opium base — the cartels began refining the opium base into brown powder heroin of much higher purity. What happened? The theory put forward by several former DEA analysts is pretty simple. The Mexican army was redirected from poppy eradication, which involved pulling the plants out by hand and generally making life difficult for the peasant “Gomeros” who grow the poppy and collect the dried poppy gum. Instead, they were taking the fight to the drug cartels, attempting to keep the peace or making the violence worse, depending on your point of view. That allowed the heroin poppy crop to sprout throughout the Sierra Madre from Durango and Sinaloa to Mexico’s southern border. Cartel chemists trained in the more sophisticated manufacturing of methamphetamine were enlisted to make better quality heroin. They made a lot of it. And all that product had to go somewhere. It came to the United States.

Increased purity
Keith Brown, assistant special agent in charge of the Albuquerque DEA office, said his agents don’t see much black tar heroin these days. “Just about everything we seize these days is brown powder,” he said. “The purity is much higher.” Instead of 900,000 heroin addicts in the United States, a figure that had remained fairly steady for decades, federal drug agency estimates jumped to 1.5 million addicts by 2010. The New Mexico Department of Health estimates there are 25,000 addicts using needles in the state, and heroin is the most commonly injected drug. But you don’t need a needle to get high on heroin anymore. “At the current level of purity, heroin can be smoked or snorted,” Brown said. “That wasn’t the case 10 years ago.” That makes it more attractive to young people who shy away from needles. Wholesale prices of an ounce of heroin have dropped from between $1,200 and $1,500 to a low of $500 an ounce, with an average price of $700. Heroin at the street level is sold in “units” that go for $20. Roughly five units equal a gram. “We have low prices and high demand,” Brown said. “Capitalism at its purest form.” How many units an addict needs depends on how long he or she has been using heroin. The body builds up a tolerance for opioid-based drugs so it takes more to get the “rush.” The more often a person takes the drug, the faster the tolerance builds up. A gram-a-day habit isn’t unusual. Some addicts develop habits that can reach 3 grams a day. To support that habit, they normally start selling drugs and creating more heroin addicts. The exact weight of heroin in a unit or a gram is guesswork, as is the purity. Street-level dealers are pretty unreliable when it comes to weights or cutting the heroin. There is no quality control. That makes things risky for addicts. The difference between a “recreational” dose and a fatal dose is small. Addicts can tell when heroin has been cut too much because they can smell the cutting agent when they “cook it” prior to injection. “If it smells like coffee, you know they’ve cut the hell out of it with instant coffee,” Tim, a 32-year-old recovering addict, said in a recent interview. “Think
PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL

Female inmates detox from heroin at a cell pod at the Metropolitan Detention Center, where inmates are under watch 24/7 in case of seizures or other health problems while “kicking” their habit.

drug series_Poppy Cultivation artist: cathryn cunningham COURTESY OF DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE size: 1 col x 17p Federal proof: aug narcotics agents seized cash and pounds of date of and local 10, 2012

brown powder heroin from Mexican national drug dealers who set up shop in Albuquerque.

MEXICO POPPY CULTIVATION 2005 TO 2009
measured in acres 48,185 37,065

About the Series hectares

acres

17,050 12,355 8,154
2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
Source: United States State Department

about putting that in your veins. When you don’t give it a second thought, you know you’re a stone addict.”

Business models
There are generally three business models for distribution of heroin in New Mexico, keeping in mind there are no absolutes in the heroin economy: n Mexican nationals who set up regional poly-drug distribution networks with direct ties to either the Sinaloa or Juárez cartels. They sell to local connections, often relatives who have some legal status in the United States, who then sell to lower-level American distributors. The heroin flow into Rio Arriba County comes from these networks. n American trafficking organizations, like the Los Padillas gang, that have direct ties to Mexican wholesalers and operate in a specific geographic area. This type of operation has become rare because of increased competition and relentless law enforcement pressure.

PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL 2005 -- 3300 SUNDAY New Mexico’s 8,154.5 Deadly Addiction An inmate is checked into the Metropolitan Detention Center after his probation was revoked 2006 -- 5000 12,355.3 for failing a urine test. TODAY Heroin — More 2007 -- 6900 17,050.3 Lethal Than Ever 2008 -- 15,000 37,065.8 TUESDAY: Painkillers delivery drivers from Over the years, their publicity on the leader of Nayarit, Mexico. delivery routes in the Juárez Cartel, Amado 2009 --19,500 48,185.5 Turn Deadly Albuquerque moved north Carrillo Fuentes, that many “We were just getting WEDNESDAY: What from the rougher trade people believe Carrillo had ready for this fellow to get Can Be Done? near East Central to strip Jordan’s younger brother sentenced in federal court, The complete series malls on Lomas Boulevard about a year after his arrest,” killed. to shopping centers along Riggs said. will be posted on Jordan believes that. Montgomery NE and now as “I got a call from the ABQJournal.com He is an iconoclast who far north as Paseo del Norte. federal Public Defender’s never had many friends in The delivery boys get paid Office about representing the DEA hierarchy but was $400 to $500 a month and a another defendant who had highly regarded by field bonus of several thousand just gotten arrested,” he agents, particularly those dollars when they return said. “When I looked at the who worked undercover. to Mexico after working six complaint, it showed my “They never cared for n The Nayarit Cartel, months to a year. Half of new client was involved in the truth in Washington,” which specializes in heroin them seem to be nicknamed the same sort of operation Jordan said in a recent and operates self-contained “Junior.” working out of the same telephone interview. distribution networks in house in northwest They don’t know the real Jordan, who grew up in El midsize American cities from names of the people they Albuquerque. My original Paso and played basketball at Phoenix to the East Coast. client hadn’t even been work for and seldom see the University of New Mexico The Northeast Heights is sentenced, yet.” them. before joining the DEA, said a market targeted by these “As a citizen,” Riggs said, “We’ve seen the same honchos in Washington distributors. “I just found that offensive.” pattern all across the never viewed Mexican heroin Federal narcotics agents country,” the DEA’s Brown as a serious problem because Heroin drives cartels believe the Nayarit Cartel said. “They move into the market was mostly in the intentionally seeks to expand an area, then focus on southwestern United States. “They always forget about heroin distribution into more neighborhoods where the The current high-quality heroin,” retired DEA agent affluent suburban areas in money is.” heroin in New Mexico Phil Jordan said in a recent mid-American cities. reminds Jordan of a situation Federal drug task forces telephone interview. The Nayarit Cartel created in the mid-1990s in the Dallas are good at rolling up drug “The people who run drug a system of independent cells area. trafficking organizations policy always push it down made up of young illegal (DTOs) like these. “We had a serious problem the priority ladder,” he said. Mexican immigrants who with high-purity heroin Any review of federal court “Then, it comes around to live together and do nothing hitting the wealthy suburbs,” files shows that’s true. Few, if bite them.” but deliver daily heroin Jordan said. “Good kids any, cases go to trial. Defense “Heroin trafficking is supplies to American user/ from good families, high attorneys focus instead on at the core of the Mexican dealers. school basketball players, downplaying the role of their cartels,” he said. “It isn’t overdosing on heroin. clients in the trafficking They are deliberately sexy. It isn’t pretty. But organization to get sentences nonthreatening and “No one wanted to believe they’ve been moving heroin below 10 years instead of 20 nondescript. They don’t it. Everyone was in denial.” for decades, and they make years. carry guns. They don’t dress money at it.” Heroin, he said, should like gang-bangers. They The problem is that as always be a priority in Over the course of his tend to drive cars like 5-year- fast as federal narcotics federal narcotics agencies. career, Jordan ran the old Mazdas. agents and the local agencies cocaine desk in Washington, “Guys like Chapo Guzman, working with them roll up D.C., and the El Paso the head of the Sinaloa They make deliveries one organization, another is Intelligence Center. He was Cartel, cut their teeth to busy shopping center ready to take its place. the special agent in charge of running heroin,” he said. parking lots along major the Albuquerque office, and “Heroin is the trunk, and Veteran criminal defense thoroughfares during the later he held the same post in every other poison these attorney Joseph Riggs was day and stay in their rented Dallas. guys smuggle are branches called on to represent one apartments or houses during from that tree.” of the ubiquitous heroin the night. He brought so much

The New Mexico Department of Health estimates there are 25,000 addicts using needles in the state, and heroin is the most commonly injected drug.

Albuquerque Journal

DEADLY ADDICTION

Monday, August 13, 2012 A5

Federal Courts Tougher on Drugs
The state District Court in Downtown Albuquerque is just across Lomas Boulevard and a few hundred feet from federal court. But they are a world apart in their handling of narcotics cases. In state court, most of the 2,500 felony drug cases end with defendants receiving sentences for probation or referrals to Drug Court. In federal court, a defendant is much more likely to end up in prison. For a long time. There are many reasons for the disparity: n Federal sentencing laws are more severe, and federal prosecutors get first choice of cases brought by narcotics task forces that get federal funding. n Federal law enforcement agencies can bring together the manpower to work wiretaps, a labor-intensive investigative tool, and focus on largescale drug networks. n Most drug cases involve search warrants and seizures of property. Restrictions on law enforcement set out by state Supreme Court rulings are much tougher on police than federal court rulings. There are 16 legal issues in which the federal courts come down on the side of police, while state court rulings favor a defense lawyer’s stricter interpretation of search and seizure allowed under the New Mexico Constitution. Example: A drug dealer tosses evidence of his illegal business into the trash bin at a motel where he’s staying. Under federal court rulings, police can search the trash bin for evidence without obtaining a warrant. Under state law, a search warrant is needed for the evidence to be used in court. For narcotics agents, the choice is a “no-brainer” —

drug series_CasesIndicted artist: cathryn cunningham size: 1 col x 18p date of proof: aug 10, 2012

INDICTED DRUG CASES
by the Bernalillo County District Attorney's Office

2010 Cocaine Ecstasy Heroin Marijuana Meth Other Prescription Psilocybin 935 21 642 340 475 155 219 2

2011 781 24 640 233 395 98 306 6

Source: Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office

PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL

County jail inmate Angela Sandoval, 34, shows a letter written by her daughter begging her mother to stop using drugs. Sandoval was awaiting transport to the state women’s prison in Grants.

Drug-Troubled Mom Hopes To ‘Get Things Right’
By Mike Gallagher
Journal Investigative Reporter

Angela Sandoval, 32-year-old mother of three, is headed to prison again. She was interviewed through the glass of her cell door at the Metropolitan Detention Center while awaiting transport to the women’s prison in Grants. “This is your life on drugs,” she said. “Two years in prison and five years’ probation,” she said. “I’m owned by the state of New Mexico.” That was her message to anyone who cares to hear it. It is a message to her daughters, including her youngest, Arianna, who had a message for her mother. Sandoval held up the letter from her daughter, who in large letters begged her mother to stop using drugs. Sandoval could hardly talk about the letter through her tears. Sandoval is a testament to the fact

that the state criminal justice system has limits when criminal defendants won’t obey the rules of their probation. A short summary: Sandoval was convicted in 2001 of robbery and put on probation. That probation was revoked, and she was sent to Drug Court, which she failed to complete. In 2008, she had another conviction for robbery committed to support her drug habit, and she was put on probation, which she violated and was sent to prison. In 2011 and 2012, Sandoval faced four separate indictments for possession with intent to distribute heroin and methamphetamine, among other charges. She was sentenced to prison again. She didn’t want to talk about how she got here, other than she was caught trafficking. Where she’s going, you don’t talk about that. You especially don’t use names. The most she will volunteer is that she fell in “with the wrong crowd” and

started using drugs. “The wrong crowd” translates in most jails as hanging with gang members or drug dealers or a boyfriend with his own raging addiction. Sandoval became pregnant at age 14, and her daughters are in the care of their grandmother. Her big concern now is her oldest daughter, who is 17. “She’s gotten a job, her driver’s license,” Sandoval said. “She’s doing good. I keep telling her and her sisters, I wasted half their lives getting mixed up with drugs. “They have to do something better,” she said, looking around her cell. “Anything is better than this.” She is not sure what the future holds. “Prison didn’t help the last time,” she said. “It made things worse.” But she added, “I have to treat this as an opportunity to get things right.” — Mike Gallagher

take the case to federal court when you can. As a result, big drug cases go to federal court, and lots of little drug cases are indicted in state court. Last year, in response to a public outcry over teens overdosing in Albuquerque, federal and local narcotics agents focused their efforts for a few weeks on street-level heroin dealers. Normally, the agents target heroin wholesalers and organizations with direct access to the Mexican drug cartels, on the theory that street-level dealers don’t get much prison time and are selling to support their own drug habits. Out of the 13 arrests made in the operation, only two resulted in prison sentences longer than a year. Others resulted in probationary sentences, and several are pending plea negotiations. U.S. Attorney Ken Gonzales didn’t expect anything more than that. “We wanted the public to know we were paying attention to the drug overdoses in the Northeast Heights and let the drug dealers know we were paying attention,” he said.

Probation for repeat offenders
Local law enforcement officers are privately critical of sentences handed down to repeat offenders in Bernalillo County. Some plea deals reached by the District Attorney’s Office and defense attorneys guarantee a probationary sentence, even for habitual offenders, when presented to a state judge. Here are three recent examples: ROBERT SANCHEZ, 43, was known to federal and local narcotics agents for two decades as a member of the South Valley Los Padillas gang and a heroin dealer. Despite four state trafficking convictions dating back to 1993, Sanchez had served less than a year in county jail. His first federal conviction got him almost four years in federal prison. In 2010, he was on state-ordered probation for 2007 drug convictions when he sold undercover agents a half-pound of heroin and seven guns were found in his home. He pleaded guilty in federal court this year and was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison. BERNANDO HERNANDEZ, 50, was serving a sentence under the state’s Drug Court program for 2009 convictions of auto theft and criminal damage to property under the name of Jose Burrek. Probation officers told prosecutors they didn’t think Burrek was a good fit for Drug Court because of his criminal history. Burrek was put into the program anyway. Turns out the probation officers were right. In October 2011, agents from Homeland Security Investigations got a tip that Hernandez/Burrek had heroin hidden under a Jacuzzi in his home. The federal agents contacted state probation officers, who decided to inspect Hernandez/Burrek’s Southeast Heights home, accompanied by federal and State Police agents. They found more than 11 ounces of heroin, 11 ounces of methamphetamine and a .380-caliber pistol. He pleaded guilty in federal court, and U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera sentenced him to 15 years in prison. JOHN ANZURES, 39, was on probation after pleading guilty to state drug charges when police began looking for him on another felony charge. They found him with a child in the back seat of his car and a loaded .40-caliber pistol under his seat. They also found a small amount of heroin in his car. Considering Anzures had a history of state felony convictions dating back to 1992 for offenses including possession of heroin, aggravated assault, burglary and escape, this was bad form. He was indicted on one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.

Opiate-Blocking Drug Saves Lives
The heroin overdose death rate in New Mexico could be a lot higher. “Thank God for Narcan,” one senior drug enforcement official said. “I’d hate to see what the death rate would be without it.” Narcan is one of several brand names for the drug naloxone that counters the effects of a heroin or opiate drug overdose in less than a minute. Opiates depress the central nervous system and respiratory system, in an overdose both shut down. Naloxone blocks opiate effects in the brain, causing an almost instantaneous withdrawal. It takes less than a minute to work. In New Mexico, it is widely used by fire and ambulance paramedics and emergency rooms. It is also distributed by the state Department of Health’s Harm Reduction Program directly to heroin users and/or family members as part of the department’s needle exchange program. In hospital emergency rooms, it is injected intravenously for fastest action. On the street, Fire Department paramedics inject the drug into the shoulder muscles because finding a usable vein on a heroin addict can take too long. In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a qualified study saying that, based on reports from programs around the country, the use of naloxone had reversed 10,000 potential overdose deaths. It is not an urban legend that heroin addicts don’t react well to somebody who has messed up their “high” with naloxone. The Journal recently interviewed a group of heroin addicts in detox at the Bernalillo County MATS program. Four out of the five were revived with naloxone, and all four said their immediate reaction was not gratitude. “You come out and it’s like, you ruined my high,” Alma Cortes said. Mike Salinas said, “I was pissed. I hustled all day to pay for that unit. I let them know it.” — Mike Gallagher

PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL

Mike Salinas, 34, says heroin is everywhere. “You don’t need to find it. It finds you,” he says.

‘Heroin Gets Into Your Bones’
There is a brutal honesty about Mike Salinas, leavened by a quick wit and laugh. He walked into the county Metropolitan Assessment & Treatment Services program to get “clean” from heroin. “I had a revelation that I was going to die,” Salinas said. “A moment of clarity.” Now 34, he was introduced at age 12 to lines of methamphetamine in the back of his older brother’s van. “I used meth for 15 years,” he said. “But you don’t know what addiction is until you run into heroin. It grabs you by the balls, excuse my language.” When he was 27, Salinas ran into heroin accidentally when a stranger asked him for a syringe. Salinas happened to have one and the stranger gave him his first taste of heroin. “When I was doing meth, I was working all the time, installing floors. I was always arguing with my wife or my girlfriend. I was always angry. “Once I got on heroin — man I felt great. There was nothing like it. I wasn’t angry anymore. It solved all my problems, I just didn’t care anymore. Just cared about getting high again,” he said during an interview at the MATS offices in Southeast Albuquerque. But the life of a heroin addict became not about getting high, but not getting sick. “Heroin gets into your bones,” Salinas said. “You need it. You hustle all day to get the money to get well. You’re not getting high, just not sick.” When he was using methamphetamine, Salinas said he did all sorts of “crazy things.” But on heroin he avoids police at all costs. “You go to jail and you have to kick cold turkey and you’re sick, really sick,” he said. Another reason he came to MATS was so he could use Suboxone to step down from heroin addiction by using lower doses each day. It also allows him to see how heroin twists the way he and other addicts see the world. “This is the way your brain works on heroin,” he said. “You hear about somebody dying of an overdose and instead of feeling sad, you wonder where did that guy score. That must have been some really good stuff. “Sick way of looking at things, but that’s what it does.” He has also learned something about the drug culture hierarchy: at the bottom are heroin addicts. “I got out of MDC (the Bernalillo County jail), and I texted my brother. He had gotten clean of the meth when I was still using, but we were brothers. “I texted him and told him I was on the black — heroin. He cut me off right there. Haven’t talked to him since.” — Mike Gallagher

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Councilors Urged To OK Paseo Bond
City Council To Consider Proposal at Sept. 5 Meeting
By Olivier Uyttebrouck
Journal Staff Writer

Prescription Drugs Kill More in N.M. Than Heroin
Third in a four-part series
Copyright © 2012 Albuquerque Journal

DEADLY ADDICTION

Top Albuquerque officials Monday urged councilors to approve a $50 million bond proposal to pay for a new Paseo del Norte/Interstate 25 interchange, warning that a public election on the issue would be expensive and legally risky. The warnings came during a special meeting at which councilors voted to consider the bond proposal, which would eliminate the need for a public vote on the proposed bonds. The nine-member council will consider the proposal Sept. 5. and will need a seven-vote super majority to approve the bond sale without an election. City officials had planned to list the question on the general election ballot on Nov. 6, but the city’s election plans were thrown in turmoil last week after Assistant Attorney General Tania Maestas raised questions about whether New Mexico law allows a municipal question on a general-election ballot. But several councilors said Monday night they preferred to stick to an earlier promise that voters would have a chance to approve or reject financing for the project. “My biggest concern is that we voted 9-0 to send it to the voters,” said Councilor Ken SanSee COUNCIL on PAGE A2

By Mike Gallagher
Journal Investigative Reporter

PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL

Tim Gallagher says prescription painkillers got him started on his heroin addiction.

Petition Seeks To Raise City’s Minimum Wage
Copyright © 2012 Albuquerque Journal

Dear Readers: It used to be pretty simple. Heroin was heroin. Cocaine was cocaine. Now, federal and local cops have to use the Physician’s Desk Reference — PDR for short — to identify the pills they seize in drug arrests. Or collect at the scene of fatal drug overdoses. Are the blue pills oxycodone or OxyContin? Is this Valium or hydrocodone? It’s often up to police to identify the pills because the people involved couldn’t tell an aspirin from suppository. We hear stories of young people raiding the family medicine cabinet, going to parties where they throw the pills into a bowl — antidepressants, sedatives, decongestants, painkillers, muscle relaxers and anything else they found in the medicine cabinet or got from a friend. They play games and take pills from the bowl like candy rewards. You can dismiss the stories as urban legend, thinking that the behavior is too bizarre to be true. Then a kid dies at one of these parties and it’s no longer urban legend. It’s the new reality of the drug world. Mike Gallagher

By Dan McKay
Journal Staff Writer

Activists trying to raise the minimum wage in Albuquerque by a dollar an hour coupled with automatic cost-of-living increases say they have gathered enough petition signatures to force a vote on the issue. They turned in the last of 25,156 signatures on Monday, said Becca Glenn, a spokeswoman for the wage coalition. That’s more than twice the number required to move the ordinance forward. The City Clerk’s Office now has 10 days to verify the validity of the signatures, which must be from Albuquerque voters. “We’re confident we have enough signatures,” said Matthew Henderson, executive director of Olé New Mexico, a nonprofit comSee MINIMUM on PAGE A5

Harris Silver, M.D., and Tim Gallagher (no relation to the reporter) are both in recovery. That’s where the similarity starts and ends. Both have battled the euphoria and warm sense of well-being that addicts describe when taking opioid drugs. Some describe it as a “cocoon” against all troubles. Silver was a practicing surgeon when he became addicted to painkillers. He was prescribed SILVER: Surthe drugs for pain geon became from a bulging disc addicted to in his neck. painkillers Like a lot of professional people who become addicted, at some point he started “doctor shopping” to get prescriptions for the drugs. That was more than 20 years ago. He got caught, not by a doctor but by a pharmacist. “I was a dumb doctor shopper. I kept taking the prescriptions to the same pharmacist,” Silver said. “He called my boss, and that began this long road I’ve been on.” Silver lobbied the Legislature this last session for tougher regulations on prescription painkillers and was the main analyst for the state Drug Policy Task Force. He does educational programs for doctors on the prescription painkiller addiction problem and is involved in national symposiums on the problem. And when he needed surgery recently, he had to take painkillers and then come off them with a lot of help from his sponsor, doctor and others. You don’t stop being an addict or
See PAINKILLERS on PAGE A4

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Seeds of Sunflower Dream Sown in Peña Blanca
UpFront
John Fleck
EÑA BLANCA — Few grand experiments are as pretty as the two acres on the north side of Deborah Montoya’s horse corral. Montoya had intended to plant the land in pasture grass when the whole sunflower thing came up. “This field hasn’t been rotated in about 10 years,” Montoya said on a sunny morning as she picked her way through the mud of a justirrigated field. This stretch of the Rio Grande Valley, on the east side of the river in the shadow of Cochiti Dam, is

P

Albuquerque Journal online ABQjournal.com

about as small as small farming gets — families that can trace their roots to Spanish immigrants who came to the valley 400 years ago and Pueblo communities that go back even longer. It is common to find farm plots here that have been carved ever smaller over the years, land divided as it passed from parents to children. Drive State Route 22 through Peña Blanca or any of the other country lanes in the valley between Bernalillo and Cochiti
See SEEDS on PAGE A5

DEAN HANSON/JOURNAL

Patrice Harrison-Inglis, left, and Deborah Montoya in Peña Blanca’s grand experiment — a field of sunflowers.

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Painkillers Kill More in N.M. Than Heroin
from PAGE A1

stop being in recovery. “I am enthusiastic about being in recovery,” Silver said. That’s something Gallagher is trying to learn. Gallagher, 32, doesn’t walk the halls of the Roundhouse in Santa Fe. Until recently, he was hustling for his next heroin fix — an addiction that grew from his use of painkillers. “Started out when I was about 17 with painkillers from my dentist,” he said. After that, things get a little hazy. Family members had a history of drug abuse, and he was introduced to injecting heroin by a family member. “You work but you get fired because you have to score or think about scoring,” Gallagher said. “Once you’re into heroin, you don’t think about anything else.” At the time of an interview with the Journal, he was at the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Assessment & Treatment Services facility to detox. He had just graduated from Turquoise Lodge, a Department of Health inpatient rehabilitation program. “I graduated three days ago,” he said. “I immediately forgot to concentrate on my recovery. “I started worrying about a job and getting a car. Next thing I know, I wake up facedown in the street and can’t remember how I got there.” Gallagher checked into the detox facility as soon as he could get his act together. “Tell everyone, this isn’t easy,” he said.

MDC Corrections officer Juan Zamora checks inmates for drugs during intake.

drug series_obtain piechart artist: cathryn cunningham size: 2 col x 21p4 date of proof: aug 13, 2012

drug series_US painkiller sales map archive x_maps_nm_drugs artist: cathryn cunningham size: 3 col x 20p date of proof: aug 9, 2012

PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL

WHERE PAIN PRESCRIPTION OPIOIDS WERE OBTAINED
Where respondents obtained*
More than one doctor

AMOUNT OF PRESCRIPTION PAINKILLERS SOLD BY STATE per 10,000 people (2010)
AK HI WA MT OR ID WY NV CA
Kilograms of prescription painkillers per 10,000 people

17.3% One doctor 14.8% Bought from
friend/relative

1.6%

ND SD NE MN IA IL MO AR LA WI MI IN OH KY TN MS AL GA FL

NH VT NY PA W V VA NC SC

ME MA RI CT NJ DE MD DC

Fatal meds
More people in New Mexico are dying of prescription painkiller drug overdoses than from overdosing on heroin and cocaine. A typical victim is middle-aged and female. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called it a national epidemic last November. The New Mexico Drug Policy Task Force, with members appointed by the Legislature and Gov. Susana Martinez, goes one better: “In New Mexico, we have a substance abuse epidemic of monumental proportions.” The warnings that prescription painkillers were a threat date back to 2001, when federal agencies noted large increases in emergency room visits for people who had overdosed on oxycodone or hydrocodone. Both narcotics are “controlled substances” under federal law, but oxycodone is a Schedule II drug and hydrocodone is Schedule III. Oxycodone is slightly more powerful and is considered more subject to abuse. As a result, prescriptions for oxycodone cannot be “called in” to a pharmacy like hydrocodone prescriptions. Add to that the growing current concern that prescription pain medication has become a “gateway” to heroin addiction for young people. In New Mexico, heroin overdose deaths among people 25 and younger doubled from 2009 to 2010. But that recent concern masks other problems in New Mexico. Among them: n Deaths from prescription opioid drugs tripled from 2000 to 2009. n The majority of people dying of prescription drug overdoses are between the ages of 44 and 64. n More women die of prescription drug overdoses than overdoses of illegal drugs. n Prescriptions for pain medications in New Mexico increased more than 350 percent for oxycodone and more than 150 percent for hydrocodone from 1999 to 2009. The state Drug Policy Task Force concluded there were several reasons for what it called a “glut” of opioid prescription medication in New Mexico. Among them: n Overprescribing prescription painkillers like Percocet (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone) by doctors and dentists. n The “medicine cabinet”

Drug dealer/ 4.4% stranger Bought on 0.4% the Internet Other

55%

6.5%
79.4% One doctor

Free/took from friend/relative

UT

CO

KS OK TX

Where friend/relative obtained

AZ

7.3% Free/took from friend/relative 4.9% Bought from friend/relative

NM

Source: National Surveys on Drug Use and Health, 2010

3.3% More than one doctor 3.5% Other 1.6% Drug dealer/stranger

3.7 - 5.9 6.0 - 7.2 7.3 - 8.4 8.5 - 12.6

*most recent nonmedical use among past-year users ages 12 or older

SOURCE: Automation of Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS) of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), 2010

About the series
SUNDAY: New Mexico’s Deadly Addiction MONDAY: Heroin — More Lethal Than Ever TODAY: Painkillers Turn Deadly WEDNESDAY: What Can Be Done? The complete series will be posted on ABQjournal.com luck with its legislative agenda last session. New Mexico regulations governing prescription drugs are in line with those of most other states, but some, like Washington, have already tightened regulations in response to opioid drug overdose deaths. “We ran into opposition from medical societies,” Weiss said. “They opposed limits on prescribing pain medication.” The group did manage to pass amendments to the Pain Relief Act that require state agencies to create rules on pain management and continuing education for those who prescribe opioid medications. The committee seems to be having better luck with regulatory agencies. In June, the State Board of Pharmacy approved changes that will expand the board’s prescription monitoring program. One change was to make it a “real time” computer program that would allow pharmacists and doctors and others to check on a patient’s prescription history. The board has had a monitoring program since 2005, but it was used primarily by board investigators, who are both pharmacists and trained law enforcement officers, to look for patterns of prescriptions that would indicate forgeries, doctor shopping or other signs of illegal diversion of prescription medications.

EDDIE MOORE/JOURNAL

Dr. Steven Jenkusky and other members of the New Mexico Medical Board last week approved new rules for prescription painkillers.
problem, in which unused prescription painkillers are stored unsecured and accessible to others, especially to teenagers. n Prescription forgeries and doctor shopping by people who are addicted to the pills or who want to sell the pills to other addicts. other challenges present themselves. Problems with insurance coverage can interrupt the doctor’s oversight or make it hard for people to legally obtain the drugs. If a patient has to see multiple doctors for different health problems, addiction management can become difficult as the patient receives different drugs for different medical problems. And doctors can miss signs that a patient’s use of pain medication is spinning out of control. The state Medical Board wants doctors to do a better job of explaining to all patients receiving prescriptions for painkillers how addictive the drugs are. Jennifer Weiss of the Heroin Awareness Committee said that is one of her group’s goals. “I know from personal experience that I never got an explanation of how addictive the painkillers were,” Weiss said. Her son, Cameron, died of a heroin overdose after he became addicted to painkillers prescribed after he had a series of high school sports injuries.

High-risk patients
Many people addicted to prescription drugs come by it honestly — through medical treatment for cancer, complications from surgery, spinal cord injuries and other medical conditions for which doctors prescribe painkillers. Because patients taking opioid painkillers build up a physical tolerance to the drugs, the addiction needs to be carefully managed in a way that requires the attention of the doctor and patient. Patients with a history of substance abuse or mental health problems can be difficult to manage. “One in 20 patients are at high risk for addiction if they are prescribed opioid painkillers,” said Silver, the physician analyst for the Drug Policy Task Force. “We have to do a better job of identifying those patients at high risk.” Once treatment begins,

The Pharmacy Board investigators are highly regarded by law enforcement. “They do amazing work,” said DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Keith Brown. “They either initiate or aid all our diversion investigations.” The Legislature didn’t fund the expansion of the program, but the board found grant money to do it. Responding to the state’s top-in-the-nation ranking for prescription overdose deaths, the state Medical Board last week enacted regulations governing prescription practices for opioid painkillers. They require doctors prescribing the narcotic painkillers for more than 10 days to use the Board of Pharmacy’s prescription monitoring program to determine if patients are getting painkillers from other doctors. Physicians also must document the treatment plan for patients receiving painkillers for longer than 10 days and see long-term patients at least every six months. Some doctors objected to the changes as “heavyhanded,” but board Chairman Dr. Steven Weiner said the board was responding to a statewide “public health crisis.” The regulations would require ongoing education for doctors on prescription pain medications.

‘Pain lobby’
So is Big Pharma pushing pain meds too aggressively? The U.S. Senate is investigating the role of drug manufacturers in promoting painkillers within the medical community and the public. Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, sent letters to pharmaceutical firms saying evidence suggests the epidemic of addiction and accidental deaths from narcotic painkillers is due to companies “promoting

Looking for abuse
The Heroin Awareness Committee didn’t have much

misleading information about the drugs’ safety and effectiveness.” The senators are asking for financial information about links between drug companies manufacturing painkillers and what they called the “pain lobby.” During the 1990s, Congress held numerous hearings on the “undermedicating” of cancer patients and others with painful chronic medical conditions, such as spinal cord injuries. A major complaint was that the regulations of state medical boards — which license doctors — restricted physicians from prescribing adequate amounts of narcotic painkillers to patients with diseases such as cancer. One result of the hearings was a liberalization of state regulations on prescribing powerful painkillers for “acute” pain, which covers a much larger universe of patients — from minor surgical procedures to sports injuries. About the time the changes went into effect, the number of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers and emergency room admissions for overdoses began to increase. One of the arguments in favor of loosening state regulations was that the new generation of painkillers was not as addictive as older drugs. Two companies that produced the most widely used painkillers — hydrocodone and oxycodone — were sued by federal prosecutors in 2006 for misleading doctors about how addictive the drugs are. The lawsuits were settled for almost $1 billion, with the companies promising to market their products using more accurate information saying that today’s painkillers are just as addictive as older medications. The companies also have taken some steps to modify opioid painkillers to make some of them more difficult to snort or smoke.

Deaths from prescription opioid drugs tripled from 2000 to 2009

Albuquerque Journal

Tuesday, August 14, 2012 A5

700 Patients Used ‘Pill Mill’
■■

Nurse practitioner admitted creating phony medical charts

By Mike Gallagher
Journal Investigative Reporter

Clinica De La Gloria was a busy place. In one year, Gloria Vigil wrote prescriptions for 700 patients. Eighty-nine percent of those were for oxycodone, hydrocodone or methadone. A man who had dropped off one of her prescriptions at a pharmacy told Drug Enforcement Administration agents that the prescriptions had cost him $150 — $50 for a go-between and $100 for Vigil. The man told agents he used 15 different names for prescriptions written by Vigil, a 62-year-old nurse practitioner. Another DEA source told agents he would pay Vigil $250 a prescription for 180 tablets of 30-milligram oxycodone. The source also told agents he obtained prescriptions from Vigil under multiple names, but could use each name only once every four weeks to avoid drawing the attention of the state Pharmacy Board. The man was sent to Vigil’s office on Bridge SW

Her attorney later wrote to the sentencing judge that Vigil told agents she “wanted to call them several times because she didn’t know how to get out of the situation.” Vigil’s sentencing was scheduled for earlier this year but has been delayed.

Friend to friend
Vigil’s case is an exception to what narcotics agents find when investigating the diversion of prescription pain pills into the illegal market in New Mexico. More typical is a person with a legitimate prescription using half the pills for their medical condition and selling the other half. Prices for oxycodone or hydrocodone fluctuate wildly in the illegal street market from $1 per milligram to sometimes as high as $2 a milligram. In one case, 49 tablets of 30-milligram doses sold for $900 or $1.63 a milligram. “A lot of what we find is a guy with a computer printing forged prescriptions with two friends passing them at pharmacies,” DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge Keith Brown said. “Sometimes it gets a little more sophisticated than that, but not often.”

twice by DEA agents to buy prescriptions. During the recorded meetings, the source purchased five prescriptions for oxycodone in five different names. Vigil later admitted in her guilty plea that she created phony medical charts in the names of people she never treated to help cover her tracks. Clinica De La Gloria is a South Valley version of a “pill mill.” DEA investigators first interviewed Vigil in 2008 about prescriptions for opioid painkillers she had signed for several young men while operating the medical practice from her home. In 2009, she opened Clinica De La Gloria in the 1700 block of Bridge SW. In 2010, DEA agents put

Clinica De La Gloria under surveillance and began interviewing employees of pharmacies about prescriptions written by Vigil for Percocet and other painkillers, according to federal court documents. Her case is a sad one on more than one level. As a child, Vigil was struck by polio, which left her with lifelong physical problems. Those ailments became worse as she grew older, according to court records. Despite that, she obtained a nursing degree and earned the right to prescribe medications working in public health clinics in Santa Fe and Las Cruces and in mental health hospitals. When she was arrested, Vigil cooperated with federal agents.

JOURNAL FILE

These pills were collected in a drive by the state Department of Public Safety to get unneeded painkillers out of homes.

Get the pills out
Getting rid of the unused pain medication in the medicine cabinet — or the kitchen cabinet — can be a problem. The Drug Enforcement Administration runs a program once a year in which people can dispose of prescription medication at prearranged locations. The Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t want the medication flushed down the toilet because the drugs may work their way into drinking or irrigation water. But Harris Silver, M.D., has a simple suggestion. “Break the tablets up, mix them with coffee grounds and then add vinegar,” Silver said. “You can throw it away in the garbage, because the opiates have been neutralized.”

Call 911
The 911 Good Samaritan Law provides a limited immunity from drug possession charges when a drug-related overdose victim or a witness to an overdose seeks medical assistance. Several drug addicts attempting to get clean asked that the public be made aware of the law. “There’s no reason for people to leave someone overdosing to die,” said Mike Salinas, who was in the county detox facility. “They need to call 911. Everyone needs to know about the Good Samaritan law.” The state Drug Policy Task Force said in its report to Gov. Susana Martinez and the Legislature that many people and law enforcement agencies were unaware of the law. The task force concluded that the law’s effectiveness had been hampered because it does not protect probationers, parolees, people facing trial or people with outstanding warrants.

Most Abusers Get Pills From Friends, Family
The “medicine cabinet” issue is not urban legend; it is real. And one the Heroin Awareness Committee made a priority. “Educating parents, students and even medical professionals about the danger of these drugs is a priority for us,” Jennifer Weiss said. “There are a lot of prescriptions for hydrocodone or oxycodone for 30 days, when the pain is gone in a week,” Weiss said. For a great many people, the side effects of opiate-based painkillers — nausea, constipation, disorientation — outweigh the effectiveness of the drug and they simply stop taking it. The pills get put into the medicine cabinet next to other unused drugs. “That’s where teens can find them,” Weiss said. A federal survey of nonmedical drug use in 2010 found that more than half of opioid painkillers people used came from a “friend or relative” for free and were prescribed by a doctor. Fewer than 5 percent of those surveyed said they bought the drugs from a stranger/drug dealer. Almost 15 percent purchased the painkilling medications from friends or relatives. — Mike Gallagher

Minimum Wage May Go on Ballot
from PAGE A1

munity group involved in the effort. The proposal is expected to trigger fierce debate if it makes the ballot. The Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce said it’s ready to fight the measure. The proposal would amend the city’s minimum-wage law to require pay of $8.50 an hour, starting next year. That’s up from the $7.50 an hour required in Albuquerque now. The federal requirement is $7.25. Supporters of the wage hike are working under a rarely used provision of the City Charter that allows “direct legislation through voter initiative.” They had two months to gather signatures from 12,091 voters. If the clerk certifies they have met the requirement, the ordinance must be proposed to the City Council. If the council rejects the ordinance, amends it or fails to act within a certain period of time, the proposal must be scheduled for an election within 90 days, according to the charter. Supporters say they want the ordinance to go on the general election ballot Nov. 6. But it’s not clear that will happen. Just last week, an assistant attorney general advised state election officials that she believes the generalelection ballot, by state law, is supposed to be reserved for state- or county-wide questions, not municipal issues. If the wage question can’t go before voters in November, then a special election would be scheduled. But state law says there can’t be other elections 42 days before or 30 days after a general election. That might push a vote on the wage ordinance to December. Glenn said putting it on the November ballot makes the most sense. It would avoid the cost of a special election and the county clerk has “technology (that) allows her to have the minimum wage on only municipal voters’ ballots,” Glenn said. Henderson said activists circulating petitions found plenty of support for the wage hike. “The minimum wage hasn’t gone up in Albuquerque in three years,” Henderson said

“The Chamber is ready for battle if this one makes it on the ballot.”
TERRI COLE, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF G R E ATE R A L B U Q U E RQ U E CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

in an interview. “It’s already out of date. The economy is in such a sour state, a lot of people think that in order to boost consumer spending, this is the kind of thing that can help.” The proposal, he added, would “put a lot more money in the hands of low-wage workers who will spend it right away.” Terri Cole, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, said the proposal would hurt Albuquerque. “The Chamber is ready for battle if this one makes it on the ballot,” she said in a written statement. “Increasing the minimum wage will eliminate jobs, lower benefits and increase prices in Albuquerque. In a nutshell, Albuquerque will become much less competitive.” She said the chamber will oppose the proposal “because no one wants an uncompetitive city. The proponents of this effort ought to join us and work, instead, on education reform. Let’s increase the quality of life for all by lowering the dropout rate and closing the achievement gap.” The ordinance calls not only for raising the minimum wage in 2013, but also for costof-living increases each year after that. There also would be new requirements that apply to employees who receive tips. The coalition working on the wage proposal includes AFSCME, El Centro de Igualdad y Derechos, New Mexico Voices for Children, the Restaurant Opportunities Center and Working America. City Clerk Amy Bailey said her staff is already working to verify the signatures. About 60 percent of those checked so far have been valid, she said. If that rate holds up, the wage ordinance will have more than enough signatures to move forward.

DEAN HANSON/JOURNAL a00_jd_14aug_pena blanca

artist: cathryn see if they Sunflowers are a big crop in the Great Plains, and a group of middle Rio Grande farmers are experimenting tocunningham can size: 1 col x 19p be a success here.

Seeds of Sunflower Dream Sown
COLOR from PAGE A1

date of proof: aug 13, 2012

and you’ll see corn, some chile and other odds and ends spread across farm fields. Mostly, though, you’ll see the green patchwork of fields planted in alfalfa, the valley’s dominant crop. But if you look along the roadsides and ditch banks, that splash of latesummer yellow you see is indeed the plant known as Helianthus annuus — the wild sunflower. It’s native to the region, a wildflower adapted to our arid climate, according to University of New Mexico biologist Tim Lowrey. And the sunflowers grown by farmers are hybrids of that lovely wild plant. “It’s really the only native seed crop that originated in North America,” Lowrey said. It was that connection — fields of farmed sunflowers she saw on a trip to California followed by wild ones lining the ditches on her return — that first got Peña Blanca farmer Patrice Harrison-Inglis thinking. “I thought, ‘Ya know what? Those hybrids would probably grow pretty well here,’ ” Harrison-Ingis recalled. When Harrison-Inglis gets hold of an idea, there’s an exuberant energy behind it. “I took a chance,” Montoya said with a laugh recently as she and Harrison-Inglis stood in the horse corral looking over at her 2 acres of

If you go
WHAT: Peña Blanca Sunflower Festival, with food, art, music, and hayrides to see the sunflower fields WHEN: Aug. 25 and 26, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. WHERE: Peña Blanca Community Center, 776 N.M. 22, Peña Blanca HOW MUCH: $1 dazzling yellow. “Patrice is very good at convincing us to do a new adventure.” At this point, the adventure is now two years into the Sandoval County sunflower experiment, with 35 acres between Santa Clara and Cochiti planted in sunflowers this year. And Harrison-Inglis, Montoya and their neighbors are inviting you up to Peña Blanca the last weekend in August to check out the results, for the first Peña Blanca Sunflower Festival. Sunflowers seem to make sense as a New Mexico crop, according to Janet Jarratt, a Los Lunas dairy farmer who has experimented with a variety bred for beauty and used for cut-flower displays. “They really are a great plant because they are indigenous,” Jarratt said. The problem, Jarratt said, has always been the chicken-and-egg problem of economies of scale — getting enough acreage in sunflowers to support the

processing plants needed to turn them into a marketable commodity. Each needs the other. Which comes first? As a rotational crop, sunflowers are perfect for New Mexico’s alfalfa farmers, according to Del Jimenez at New Mexico State University’s ag science center in Alcalde. Alfalfa, typically baled for animal feed, is a relatively lowmaintenance crop. But you can’t leave a field in alfalfa forever, Jimenes said. Alfalfa puts nitrogen in the soil, and sooner or later sustainable farming practices require you to switch it out for a crop that takes the nitrogen back out, said Jimenez, an ex officio member of the Peña Blanca sunflower posse. You can grow them for their oil, or for eating. Sunflowers are a huge crop in the Dakotas, with over a million acres in production last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Our neighbors in Colorado grow sunflowers, along with California (where farmers grow pretty much everything) and six other states. But they’re not even a blip in New Mexico’s agricultural economy. For now, Harrison-Inglis hopes to package the Peña Blanca sunflowers as a boutique local crop for eating, to be sold at local stores. If the harvest is large enough, it could be shipped

SUNFLOWER FESTIVAL Cochiti
Pueblo

S F

Peña Blanca

22

550 Bernalillo

25
N
10 miles

map area
40 Albuquerque
40

25 Santa Fe

Albuquerque

N.M.
JOURNAL

JO

to one of the large sunflower processors in the Great Plains sunflower farming states. But Harrison-Inglis had a glimmer in her eye as she let slip the dream — enough sunflowers to support a plant, in Peña Blanca, to turn the seed into pressed sunflower oil: “What if Peña Blanca could have a mill?” While that’s just a distant dream, in the meantime you can check out the dazzling yellow experiment Aug. 25 and 26. UpFront is a daily frontpage opinion column. Comment directly to John Fleck at 823-3916 or jfleck@ abqjournal.com. Go to www. abqjournal.com/letters/ new to submit a letter to the editor.

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Korte Against APS Pact

DEADLY ADDICTION

Break Our Drug Habit?
Fourth in a four-part series
Copyright © 2012 Albuquerque Journal

How Can We

Board member says teachers’ union contract makes it too cumbersome to fire bad teachers

By Mike Gallagher
Journal Investigative Reporter

Copyright © 2012 Albuquerque Journal

By Hailey Heinz
Journal Staff Writer

Albuquerque Public Schools board member Kathy Korte, saying she has had many frustrations with a few “lousy” teachers over the years, plans to vote against the teachers’ union contract tonight because she says it’s too cumbersome for principals to fire bad teachers. “I registered my kids and see that my battles will continue at the schools because of a few rogue teachers who aren’t doing their jobs, and no one is KORTE: Calls forcing them to,” Korte wrote process of firin an email last week to dis- ing teachers trict administrators, the local cumbersome teachers’ union president and the school board. “Sleeping on the job; lack of a clear curriculum; lack of communication with parents; bipolar-like tendencies that tell kids to do one thing as they rush out the door when the bell rings
See BOARD on PAGE A8

PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL

Youth Development Inc.’s Judy Pacheco watches Nikko Vasquez, 18, create a song on a computer. YDI is credited with keeping young people like Nikko away from gangs and drugs.

Dear Readers:

Green Energy Charge To Hit PNM Bills
Copyright © 2012 Albuquerque Journal

The breathtaking scope of New Mexico’s deadly drug addiction is downright depressing. Sometimes, it seems hopeless. It isn’t. Despite the slow pace and horrific setbacks, we as a state have made headway in our long struggle with drunken driving. We’ve made headway in curbing the use of methamphetamine. We can do the same when it comes to heroin and prescription painkiller addiction. Once we begin addressing the state’s opiate addiction problem, other substance abuse problems like cocaine should follow.

By Kevin Robinson-Avila
Journal Staff Writer

The Public Regulation Commission approved a new renewable energy rate rider Tuesday to allow Public Service Company of New Mexico to begin recovering its investments in solar, wind and other clean energy sources. Customer bills, for the first time, also will carry a line item showing the cost of renewables along with an explanation that they reduce the amount the utility spends on fossil fuels. The green energy charge could begin appearing on bills as soon as this month, depending on when the commission publishes its final order, said PNM spokeswoman Susan Sponar. She said preliminary estimates indicate the average customer, who consumes about 600 kilowatt hours of electricity a month, could
See GREEN on PAGE A8

Over the past several months, I’ve talked with many people about what approaches are working and others that are just being discussed. There are certain non-starters from my perspective: closing the border; legalization of heroin; or shooting drug dealers on sight. None of those things is going to happen. But a concerted effort that involves reducing purity and supply (like we did with ingredients for methamphetamine), public education campaigns, intervention and treatment programs, legislation, and coordinated efforts of law enforcement and the courts can change this deadly equation. Like it did with DWI. We can’t afford not to try. Mike Gallagher

Ray Archuleta, 44, has been using heroin for more than 20 years. The years haven’t been kind. The streets and heroin addiction have worn him down. A lot of heroin addicts his age are dead. “I’ve quit a lot over 20 years, but it gets harder each time,” he said. “I have to accept that I want to be sober, I have to change my whole attitude.” “Heroin. This drug, it’s a devil,” he said. Archuleta’s many attempts over the past two decades show how hard it is to kick the habit. For this interview, he was in the volunteer county detox program called Metropolitan Assessment & Treatment Services trying to get clean, again. He was on a five-day “taper” — the drug Suboxone for five days in decreasing doses to ease his withdrawal. Suboxone and methadone are drugs used both for detoxification of heroin addicts, allowing them to stop using heroin, and in long-term maintenance programs in which addicts use them instead of heroin. Both can be abused, and both can lead to death by overdoses. But success means an addict is less likely to kick down your door and
See HOW on PAGE A4

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NMFA Bond Program Wasn’t Raided

W
UpFront
Thomas J. Cole

Albuquerque Journal online ABQjournal.com

hen money got tight because of the recession, the Legislature searched the nooks and crannies of government for unspent public funds that could be swept up and re-appropriated for what lawmakers considered to be more pressing needs. One place it went looking for money was the New Mexico Finance Authority. It was a no-brainer; the authority has about $1.8 billion in assets, with a good deal of that in cash. The Legislature got what it was looking for. During the past

three fiscal years, the NMFA has transferred about $43 million to the state’s general fund. How the Finance Authority accounted for the transferred money on its financial statements has become an issue in an investigation of the authority by the state Securities Division. The authority’s former controller and its current chief operating officer are accused of conspiring to disguise the transfers in a bid to mislead investors and potential investors in NMFA bonds. The investigation of the Finance

Authority began last month with the discovery that a 2011 audit of the NMFA was never conducted and that the former controller ginned up a fake audit. The Finance Authority said Monday that none of the money transferred to the state came from its flagship program, the Public Project Revolving Fund, which borrows money through bond sales and makes loans to state and local governments and agencies. The revolving fund is the only
See N.M. on PAGE A2

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How Can We Break N.M.’s Deadly Habit?
from PAGE A1

haul off your property to support his habit. The strategies for breaking New Mexico’s deadly addiction to opiates must address how to help those already hooked and how to keep the ranks from growing. U.S. Attorney Ken Gonzales puts a high priority on young people being targeted by Mexican cartel heroin pushers by aggressively targeting drug dealers. But he says that alone won’t turn the tide. Kids need to understand the threat posed by heroin — just because they don’t need to inject themselves with needles (high-quality heroin can be smoked or snorted) doesn’t mean it isn’t deadly. Many young people turned away from methamphetamine after education campaigns equating a frying egg with “your brain on drugs” and staring at the haunted and toothless faces after just a few years on the drug. Not cool. New rules making it more difficult to get meth-making ingredients — that’s why you have to sign for Sudafed at the drugstore — coupled with U.S.-Mexican cooperation that reduced supply and purity were effective. At the top of the list, according to one veteran narcotics agent, kids need to understand “this isn’t your grandpa’s heroin. People think they know about heroin; they don’t.” Time and again police and people working drug treatment said parents were completely ignorant about the drug threat their children face. Some of their suggestions: n Develop drug education programs designed to reach adults across the state who have school-age children. Education programs designed to reach young people have to stay current and innovative. n Drug education needs to be designed to reach younger kids and specifically young girls, who experts say are particularly susceptible to peer pressure. School districts need to coordinate anti-drug and substance abuse efforts with local treatment and intervention programs. n Juvenile courts should require older teens sentenced to a state lockup to complete a GED before they are released.

About the series
SUNDAY: New Mexico’s Deadly Addiction MONDAY: Heroin — More Lethal Than Ever TUESDAY: Painkillers Turn Deadly TODAY: What Can Be Done?

JOURNAL FILE

At an Albuquerque City Council meeting last year, members of the Heroin Awareness Committee display photos of family members who lost their lives to heroin addiction.

The Journal is making the series “Deadly Addiction” available as a public service for easy sharing without registration. Just go to www.ABQjournal. com/drugs for all parts of the series including full-page replicas of the newspaper pages.

PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL

Katrina Hotrum, head of Bernalillo County’s drug programs, talks about coordinating programs with law enforcement agencies and health care providers.
communication so we can work together is really a key to getting anything to work,” she said.
PAT VASQUEZ-CUNNINGHAM/JOURNAL

Ray Archuleta, 44, talks at the Metropolitan Assessment and Treatment Services center about the need for easier access to Suboxone.

Treatment options
The state Drug Policy Task Force concluded that tens of thousands of people in the state need treatment for substance abuse but are unable to obtain or afford services. Some of the task force suggestions include: n Create a centralized referral service available 24/7 for people seeking drug or alcohol treatment programs. n Expand services at Turquoise Lodge in Albuquerque from the current 34 beds to 80 so it can offer long-term recovery services. n Create three temporary 10-bed emergency regional treatment centers for juveniles for detoxification and residential treatment in Las Cruces, Albuquerque and either Farmington or Española. n Increase the availability of opioid dependence therapy — that is, the use of Suboxone — through trained physicians throughout the state. n Examine the role of commercial insurance carriers in restricting or cutting back private insurance coverage for drug and alcohol treatment. n Require insurance carriers, including Medicaid, to cover methadone maintenance therapy — most patients pay out-of-pocket monthly costs averaging $330. Some companies pay for Suboxone therapy. n Should the state run methadone clinics in areas not currently served by private clinics? There are currently clinics in Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Española and Belen.

are treated the same from arrest through prosecution and sentencing. Those suggesting the idea argue that addict/dealers do more harm to a community than addicts.
n Train police officers in smaller communities in the use of Naloxone for immediate treatment of people overdosing from heroin or prescription drugs. n Broaden the immunity of people calling 911 for help for someone overdosing to include people on probation and parole. n Develop programs in jails and prisons that release inmates to treatment programs directly from lockup. Make methadone and Suboxone step-down treatment available in jails and prison for new inmates with a history of heroin or prescription drug abuse. n Create “wet houses” where homeless addicts and alcoholics can stay without requiring them to be sober.

Medical help
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New Mexico has the highest per capita death rate from drug overdoses in the nation. Although the numbers decreased slightly in recent years, the 477 who died of overdoses in 2010 surpassed New Mexico’s historically high drunken driving fatalities by more than 100. Stemming the supply of painkillers not only would reduce the number of people who die of prescription drug overdoses, but also would curtail heroin use, because many people — especially teens — move from the medicine cabinet supply to the heroin dealer. The state Medical Board took a major step last week in adopting new rules for doctors prescribing opioid painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone. New Mexico is at the top of the list for fatal overdoses on the painkillers. Also, young people often start down the trail to heroin abuse by popping painkillers. The new rules are more restrictive and require doctors to document painkiller prescriptions in treatment plans and to have follow-up visits. Doctors prescribing pain medication will be required to attend continuing education classes to stay current on the use and abuse of the drugs. The expansion of the Board of Pharmacy’s prescription monitoring system holds promise in getting prescription forgeries and doctor shopping under

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Public defenders consult with clients before felony arraignments recently in state District Judge Reed Sheppard’s courtroom, where drug-related crimes made up a large part of the docket.
control. But a successful monitoring program can create more work for police agencies by identifying more prescription forgers. Are local police ready for that? Are local prosecutors? Do they have enough officers and prosecutors with the expertise to build the criminal cases? What priority would those cases be given? Another suggestion under discussion is development of specific drug screening and intervention for people over age 50 who are at risk for addiction to prescription drugs. the staying power of an organization like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, their impact can be felt for decades. The Heroin Awareness Committee has made development of a permanent inpatient juvenile drug treatment facility in Albuquerque its priority. n Youth Development Inc.’s Gang Intervention Program has aimed at highrisk kids for decades and measures success when graduates bring more teens to the program’s door for help. Some of those former graduates are adults who bring younger relatives in for help in dealing with gangs and drug abuse. n The U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies — FBI, DEA, ATF and Homeland Security Investigations — over the past several years have made a point of working with local police agencies throughout the state to target longtime local drug dealers and armed career criminals. n The multiagency approach to dealing with the heroin addiction problem in Rio Arriba County — a problem that is a black mark on New Mexico. Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have cooperated in prosecuting large-scale Mexican drug organizations supplying heroin to the area, while at the same time cooperating with education and treatment programs for heroin addicts. n At the MATS program, addicts can use the Suboxone taper detox twice a year because the drug is expensive and the program is not a drug maintenance program. Katrina Hotrum is director of the Bernalillo County Department of Substance Abuse Programs and oversees MATS, a voluntary 48-bed drug and alcohol detox center in Southeast Albuquerque that was wracked by scandal a few years ago. Over the last year she said her job was rebuilding trust in the program, communication with police and the medical community and coordinating with state and other local programs. “Building the lines of

In interviews with police, doctors, jailers, prosecutors, educators, defense attorneys, legislators and treatment professionals, the words “communication” and “coordination” were mentioned time and time again. Each profession tends to look at the drug issue through its own prism made up of problems and issues facing their specific area of expertise. The integration of law enforcement and the criminal justice system can’t be ignored in addressing how the state can reverse the addiction problem. For example, the closing of one small treatment program can have ramifications in state courts that refer people on probation to it. That closure can increase the local jail population. In the end, this is clear: There is no silver bullet. It will take everything from hard-hitting education programs to hard-nosed police work taking down dealers. It will take treatment and grass-roots efforts. In the words of Gonzales, New Mexico’s top federal law enforcement official: “If we want to heal our communities, we have to work together.”

Grass roots
There are any number of positive steps taken in the past two years. Among them: n The formation of a citizens group like the Heroin Awareness Committee can change the landscape, forcing politicians, judges, law enforcement agencies and a others to address the issues they raise. If the groups develop

Law enforcement
Police arrest a lot of people on drug charges, and literally thousands of people are taken into court. n The question at the local level is whether police and prosecutors are compiling numbers or making cases that affect the drug problem in neighborhoods. n Police, prosecutors and judges need to make a clear distinction between drug addicts and addict/dealers. In many instances the cases

The 477 who died of overdoses in 2010 surpassed New Mexico’s historically high drunken driving fatalities by more than 100.

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