DEL NORTE— Residents of Del Norte gathered at the county annex building on Tuesday, June 18 for the monthly Neighborhood Watch meeting. The program has been on a short break while Del Norte Chief of Police Robert Fresquez healed from a recent accident, but the group was able to pick back up on Tuesday.
The program has begun to welcome guest speakers from all over the Valley. This meeting welcomed Crossroads Director and Founder Dr. Ian Walker and San Luis Valley Behavioral Group (SLV BHG) Chief Clinical Officer of Intensive Services Jennifer Silva.
Walker opened the presentation with a slideshow depicting the severity of opioid and heroine use in the Valley over a 12-year span. From 2002 until 2014 the opioid crisis in the Valley was significantly more severe than other locations throughout Colorado. “As you can see from the dark shaded areas on this map, we have an issue here in the Valley, but it is not just here, it is nation-wide,” stated Walker.
Walker continued by explaining what they do at Crossroads and what they are doing to actively monitor the problem of substance abuse here in the Valley. The clinic offers a program known as MAT or Medical Assisted Treatment. The team administers three different types of drugs that help addicts. “We have three medications that we offer our patients: Methadone, which is the most common course we use for recovery, Naltrexone which helps stimulate the part of the brain that is associated with cravings and the most recently approved, Buprenorphine. All three have benefits to patients struggling with addiction.”
Walker explained that at this time, the clinic sees an average of about 600 patients a year who come to seek treatment. “This number varies from year to year. People come in, begin treatment and then a majority of them do not come back. It is the sad truth about addiction. We do have 35 percent that stay in the program for up to three years and I am very proud to have that 35 percent. It is not an easy fix, nor is it something that can be fixed overnight. We have to keep working to support those who are actively seeking help.”
Silva took a moment to speak about the mobile unit the program recently received funding to provide to the Valley, stating that the unit would be able to go to addicts wherever they are located to administer treatment. “The unit will have an in-house pharmacy and team of professionals that can offer pretty much everything the clinic does. The best part is that we can go to patients. We have found that most of our patients drop out of the program because of the lack of transportation to get to the clinic for treatment. So now, we will go to them,” said Silva.
Several residents posed questions to the Behavioral Health team, most of which were centered around what else can be done to help addicts get treatment. “At the end of the day it is up to the person to seek help. As a family member or friend of someone who is suffering from addiction, the best thing you can do it continue to show them as much support as possible, even if it is their first-time seeking help or their 100th,” finished Walker.
Fresquez stated that he hoped to continue to invite guest speakers to the neighborhood watch meetings as often as possible. “Education is key. It is our best tool against this problem, so we will do what we can to arm the public with the right tools so they can continue to assist us.”
Neighborhood Watch meetings will take place every third Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the county annex building in Del Norte.