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David Morgan
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Drug Addiction Treatments in the Southwest

February 19, 2014 - Harm Reduction - Information

A lot has been written about the death this month of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Some of us know him for his Oscar winning role in the film in the film “Capote”. Most of our kids know him as Plutarch Heavensbee in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, and at this point everyone knows the 46-year-old actor died February 2nd of an apparent heroin overdose.

The New Mexico Department of Health knows the consequences of substance abuse are severe in the state. Substance abuse is among the top five leading cause of death in New Mexico. An average of nearly 500 people have died every year for the last six years due to accidental overdose from drugs both illegal or prescribed.

Prevention and treatment are of critical importance in New Mexico. The department’s primary prevention attempts are to stop a drug misuse or abuse problem before it starts, but for people already in the fight for their lives, we offer harm reduction.

Syringe exchange, which prevents the transmission of blood-borne pathogens, like HIV and hepatitis C among injection drug users who share drugs, is one such strategy. Harm reduction programs also deliver drug treatment with opiate replacement therapy, overdose prevention education with Narcan and more. Treatment often involves substituting a safer prescribed medicine like methadone or Suboxone for street heroin.

There are some patients, however, that need a more structured environment – somewhere where they can not only be counseled but be provided observed therapy. Directly observed therapy is where health care workers don’t just prescribe the medication – they are there as the patients take it.

The result ensures people who need the medicine are taking when and as much as they should, and now, there is a facility like that in southwest New Mexico for the first time in years.

ALT Recovery Group is an outpatient clinic specifically designed to treat those suffering from opiate addiction.

The criterion is simple: they help people with an opiate addiction lasting more than a year who want to stop.

The facility treats all of its clients with just one drug: methadone. It’s a drug that’s been around for decades, and what it does is decrease the withdrawal and cravings that come with addiction. Methadone doses are slowly increased in a controlled, structured medical setting allowing clients to substitute it for use of substances like heroin and other opioids like Oxycontin or Vicodin. Clients can be receiving treatment for prescription drug addiction – but right now, all of ALT Recovery Group’s clients are heroin users.

Clients are required to take random drug tests to monitor their progress. ALT staff also refer their clients back to New Mexico Department of Health’s Las Cruces Central Public Health Office for hepatitis C and HIV counseling and testing and for Narcan overdose prevention training and dispensing. For the department a clinic like ALT’s was a welcomed arrival.

When ALT Recovery Group set up shop last fall at 1141 Mall Drive (Suite E), it became the first methadone clinic in Las Cruces in five years. Marketing director Chad Tewksbury is a California native. He chose Las Cruces as the best place to set up shop after touring cities in Alabama, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and even his home state, looking for the place to where he could make a difference.

“My father and step-mother died from opiate overdoes,” said Tewksbury. “My brother has been in a methadone program now for 15 years, and knows if he’s not in a program, he’ll be using heroin again.”

You can say Tewksbury is on a mission. He wouldn’t be alone.

“You and I get up in the morning, and we’re productive. Without a drug rehab program, our clients can’t do that,“ said investor and co-owner Anthony Lanza. “Not because they don’t want to, but because of addiction. It’s not as if they want to live this way.”

Lanza is a financial consultant. Shortly after he signed on to be among the investors for ALT Recovery Group, one of his clients lost his 19-year-old son to a heroin overdose. “My client is a very wealthy man. You think he’s got it all, and no, his son was dead at 19.”

That’s when it became about more than just an investment for Lanza. “We don’t have anything if we don’t have our health. Money is just money. Here, this center, this is life and death kind of stuff.”

Program Director Deborah Cullen knows that all too well herself, having lost both a younger brother and sister to addiction.

“We’re all personally invested in this because we all have a story,” said Cullen. “We have a stake to see that this program works and help people.”

The changes in the clients come quickly and for the better. “It did not take a week and there were already several clients who had already gotten jobs, who had not been employed for years,” said Cullen. “Even the changes in their physical appearance after a week is just amazing.”

Already treating clients here in Las Cruces, ALT Recovery Group is also marketing in neighboring southwest communities – all of which have their own drug problems: Alamogordo, Deming, Anthony and Sunland Park.

It’s also beginning the process to work with Corizon Health, the largest medical provider for correctional facilities in the nation, to provide methadone to clients in the Dona Ana County Detention Facility.

For all involved – from investors to employees, the program isn’t just a job but a calling.

“This program really truly made a believer out of me,” said Cullen.

For information on ALT Recovery Group, call 575-522-0660 or toll free outside of Las Cruces 877-258-4301. You may also visit their website.

Media Contact

We would be happy to provide additional information about this press release. Simply contact David Morgan at 575-528-5197 (Office) or 575-649-0754 (Mobile) with your questions.