The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH), in partnership with state lawmakers, proposes Senate Bill 255 which seeks to update sections of the state’s Harm Reduction Act to better allow the department to combat the rising number of Fentanyl and other drug overdose deaths in the state.
The proposed changes would allow NMDOH greater capacity to reduce both drug overdoses and deaths, and other negative health consequences associated with drug use, by providing supplies for safer consumption.
“The proposed changes to the Harm Reduction Act will better allow the Department of Health to address current substance use in the state now and as it evolves in the future,” said Secretary-Designate Dr. Tracie Collins.
Fentanyl is now one of the most common drugs involved in drug overdose death in New Mexico, surpassing heroin and prescription opioid-related deaths. Proposed changes to the Harm Reduction Act will allow the agency for the first time to provide both fentanyl test strips – and instructions on how to use them – to substance users. A rapidly growing body of research shows that those with access to the test strips use them and are more likely to change their substance use behavior as a result.
People who knowingly or unknowingly ingest fentanyl are at high risk of overdose and death, and the drug has been a cause of drug overdose statewide and nationally. In New Mexico, the number of deaths due to fentanyl increased from 67 in 2018 to 129 in 2019, the latest year for which complete data is available.
“The increasing presence of fentanyl in the illicit drug supply in our state means that people often don’t know exactly what they are using when they use drugs,” said Dr. Collins. “When they know, they can make safer choices.”
Senate Bill 255 is currently pending review by the New Mexico Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee.