From left to right, Otero County Commissioners Gerald Matherly, Vickie Marquardt, and Amy Barela at the April 13, 2023 meeting. (Screenshot via the commission livestream)
Otero County commissioners unanimously rejected a proposal to join other county governments pooling together their settlement funds from national opioid lawsuits.
At the April 13 meeting, commissioners were tasked with deciding whether to join seven other counties to pool resources to develop a treatment system to remediate from the opioid crisis.
This would include establishing a board to develop and implement a “sustainable, best practice, opioid treatment resource and/or program,” and close addiction treatment gaps for people with opioid addiction.
Catron, Cibola, Guadalupe, Hidalgo, Sierra, Socorro and Valencia counties have joined the Opioid Remediation Collaborative.
The New Mexico Opioid Allocation Agreement has more than $195 million for the state and counties. The money will be split 45% to the state, and counties and municipalities will share 55% of the funds.
Otero county attorney R.B. Nichols recommended the county not join the collaborative, adding that the county received $334,000 from a single settlement so far.
“I think we can use the money more effective, locally,” Nichols said, adding that funding could go to the Sheriff’s department.
Commissioners asked for input from Amber Mayhall, the director for the county’s health care services.
Mayhill agreed that the county should not join the collaborative, but recommended that the commissioners put the money towards improving health care options. She recommended increasing mental health services for youth and push the healthcare system to treat mental health concurrently with any substance-use disorder.
“We have zero services that focus on youth or adolescents with a substance use disorder or when they do misuse opioids,” Mayhall said. “That needs to be systematically addressed.”
Nichols proposed the county set up a future meeting to hear funding proposals from law enforcement, counseling services and others.
Otero County officials were not reached for comment for when that meeting may be scheduled.
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Correction: An earlier version of the story misspelled Amber Mayhall’s name.
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