Tonight at the Santa Fe City Council meeting, the Mayor of Santa Fe, Javier M. Gonzales, will introduce a resolution establishing a Municipal Drug Strategy Task Force charged with recommending innovative public health and safety approaches to problematic drug use in the City of Santa Fe. As communities face increasing problems with drug overdose, the Municipal Drug Strategy will offer locally-based solutions grounded in evidence that could help prevent drug use and sales, reduce overdose deaths and drug-related illnesses, lessen incarceration, and decrease racial disparities and the over criminalization of families. The Santa Fe Municipal Drug Strategy project is based on the city of Ithaca’s year-long process involving a wide array of stakeholders ranging from the Police Chief and treatment providers to people who use drugs and parents. The City released The Ithaca Plan: A Public Health and Safety Approach to Drugs and Drug Policy. The plan marks a radical departure from punitive responses to drugs rooted in law enforcement that characterize much of U.S. drug policy. The Ithaca Plan instead focuses on public health, economic development, and harm reduction, including expanding access to medication assisted treatments, such as methadone and buprenorphine; increasing youth employment programs; and opening the nation’s first supervised injection facility.
“This isn’t a problem we can solve by simply declaring a new, top-down policy. It has to be something we take on together, and the strategy has to come from the community. From harm reduction, to law enforcement, to prevention, to treatment, there is a huge range of expertise already developing in Santa Fe, and to find success we will need every one of those voices at the table,” said Mayor Gonzales. He added, “So we’re doing what we often can do best – bringing people together.”
“Santa Fe can be another example of bold municipal leadership and demonstrate how cities can step up and implement innovate drug policies rooted in science, compassion, and public health,” stated Emily Kaltenbach, State Director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “We need to find a way to depart from punitive responses to drugs – responses that have proven over and over again not to work. We continue to see our families cycle in and out of jail without getting the treatment and social supports they need to address their problematic drug use. Instead, Santa Fe needs: treatment on demand that does not punish people for relapsing; access to treatment such as methadone and buprenorphine in our County jail; more supportive housing that does not deny people based on their drug use; economic development opportunities, including youth employment programs; and, exploring new evidence-based treatments like heroin assisted treatment. Let’s prioritize public health over costly criminal justice strategies. Even when federal and state government fail to act, cities can.”
The Resolution will create a task force with the purpose of collaborating across different areas of focus, including harm reduction, prevention, treatment, and law enforcement in order to recommend long-term solutions to address the issues arising from persons struggling with problematic drug and alcohol use. Although, there continues to be a concern regarding Santa Fe’s opioid overdose death rate, this task force will look at all drugs, not just heroin and prescription drugs. The Resolution also calls for the City to convene a series of focus groups around the city to learn how drug use is affecting communities, families and individuals and how current drug policies can be improved. Problematic drug use and dependence is a complex issue that requires innovative approaches to harm reduction in drug use.
In 2016, 45 people in Santa Fe County died of a drug overdose. Overdose death rates now outnumber traffic fatality rates. Also, from July 1, 2016 and May 31, 2017 there were 229 arrests for possessing a controlled substance other than marijuana and 156 arrests for possessing drug paraphernalia by the Santa Fe Police Department.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation’s leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.